SINGAPORE: The Municipal Service (MSO) has changed the way closed items are marked in its OneService application to better reflect the status of feedback in the field.
This is one of several improvements to the app, a “shared” community platform where users can give feedback on municipal issues, from cleanliness to infrastructure maintenance.
Other improvements include the Municipal 360 (M360) initiative, where cases are closed only after a full resolution, with photographic evidence of completed works.
The application will also contain house renovation notifications in the “Events” section. Residents of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) can check in the application the future renovation of HDB houses in their block. It has been progressively introduced since the end of June.
This is in addition to the new OneService chat service launched in July, where residents can report municipal problems in their neighborhood via WhatsApp and Telegram chat.
The MSO made these changes to its OneService app in response to public feedback, MSO Senior Director for Quality of Service and Community Engagement Kenneth Kwok told CNA.
Renaming the status of the case
Previously, cases of feedback sent through the OneService application would have been marked as closed when the agency or city council responded to the feedback.
While this would mean the end of communication, residents could feel that the cases were not closed, Mr Kwok said, adding that this was the reason why the MSO had created two separate tracks in the application.
In immediate cases, when an agency or city council can provide photographic evidence to show completed work, the MSO would consider the case resolved. For example, cleaners can paint a cleaned site in response to a cleanliness complaint.
This would be covered by the M360 initiative, which was piloted in January 2020 with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and 17 city councils. HDB joined the initiative in January this year and plans are underway to involve more agencies, such as the Land Transport Administration, the National Parks Committee (NParks) and the PUB.
In more complex cases where the agency needs more time to investigate, conduct supervision or maintenance work, the case will be labeled as “Agency Response” or “City Council Response” with a description of planned actions and an estimated timeframe.
“We think it’s a more accurate reflection of the status of the business, which hasn’t actually closed, hasn’t been resolved yet, is still ongoing, and then the agency commits to you that they will continue,” Mr. Kwok said.
In addition to the platform for protégés who send feedback, the goal is for the app to be a “one-stop shop” for residents.
“We know there are so many applications, don’t we?” And the more we can make room in one place for residents, we just thought it was easier for everyone, “said Mr. Kwok, adding that the initiative is partly a consequence of the current attention to noise issues.
At the moment, residents may not be aware of the renovation announcements, Mr. Kwok said. This is because owners and suppliers place notifications only outside the unit being renewed.
Notices should also be given to units near the affected apartment, as well as units on two floors above and below.
In addition, different city council management practices may mean that notices are not always available in elevator lobbies so that all residents can see them, the MSO said.
“With that information, I hope that people can then … make plans, and then maybe (can) go to relatives to work for the next few days or something,” he said.
According to Mr. Kwok, the most common types of problems in the application are issues of cleanliness, problems related to HDB and feedback on roads and footpaths.
However, there has also been an increase in “neighborhood issues” recently, probably due to a work agreement from home, he said. These issues include noise and smoking in homes.
“I think that such problems consist in the fact that many times I assume that we have not been at home before, so maybe we are not so aware, sensitive to them or we influence them,” he said.
“But then I think there’s a greater realization now that with everyone … spending more time at home, our neighbors’ behavior actually affects us as well.”
Many of the cases reported in the OneService app neatly fall into one of their 12 categories, Mr. Kwok said. Twelve categories are cleanliness, pests, roads and footpaths, animals and birds, facilities on HDB properties, drinking water, drains and sewers, parks and greenery, construction sites, abandoned wheelchairs, shared bicycles, as well as improper parking.
Once submitted, the question would go to the competent agency or city council, which is “quite simple.”
Other issues may be less clear and may require the coordination of several agencies, such as pigeon feeding, which includes NPark’s animal and veterinary service and NEA.
“But I think we also understand that many behavioral issues are not something that the agency can simply come in and resolve immediately,” he said, adding that residents here could solve application problems by classifying cases as “closed.”
For example, HDB in a conversation with a neighbor does not guarantee that the neighbor will stop making noise, which means that the case is still ongoing.
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“Noise is what we consider a complex case, because it is very unpredictable in terms of our ability to promise and that this will certainly be resolved by (a certain date),” he said.
Subjectivity also plays a role in how complex the issue is. Noise can mean different things to different people, while the smells of cooking can be unpleasant for some.
“It is very difficult () for the government to pass laws on what is a pleasant smell and what is an unpleasant smell, and I think that Singapore does not want to go that way,” said Mr. Kwok.
In order to avoid conducting and punishing such cases, a “more humane approach” is needed, where it tries to connect with residents and encourage neighbors to be more careful with each other, he added.
Recurring cases could involve a disobedient resident who continues to disturb common areas even after the city council has cleaned them up.
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Residents facing such problems can tell the agency that the situation has not been resolved, Mr. Kwok said. He added that the MSO collects such feedback and cooperates with agencies to monitor cases, if necessary.
Another option is for the resident to report a new case. “Once we see that there is a pattern, we will answer you in a different way, because we are like, ‘Oh, okay, this is not just a simple cleanup,'” he said.
Resolving recurring cases will “probably take much longer,” he added, due to oversight and public education.
With more than 350,000 users and 1.09 million feedbacks received by government agencies and city councils, the OneService app has grown over its five years of operation.
But Mr. Kwok hopes to raise awareness of the application among Singaporeans.
“We want every Singapore to know that the OneService app is there for you if you need it,” he said, adding that people should take the necessary steps to solve their problems first, if they can.
“We believe that sometimes when people take responsibility for their own issue or when they really try to intervene on their own, they can actually solve it better than a government agency can.”