FixMyStreet (FMS), NetBrussels' app that allows Brussels residents to signal problems in their living environment, is taking off. Since its launch in 2013, almost 180,000 intervention requests have already been received. With the Innoviris research project Producing Urban Legibility: Mobile City Applications and the Local Governance of Minor Offences (PUL-MOBIL), VUB criminologists Iris Steenhout and Lior Volinz are investigating, among other things, whether FixMyStreet meets the expectations of residents of the Brussels Capital Region.
"When FMS was launched in 2013, the government's main aim was to make citizens feel listened to and shorten the distance to administrative services," says Iris Steenhout. "FMS allows citizens to report nuisances or even minor crimes, which then go directly to the responsible municipal department."
It took several YEARS for FMS to be picked up by Brussels residents due to low awareness. The big breakthrough came in 2017 and from then on it only went crescendo. Now that many residents of the Region are familiar with the service, more than 50 reports flow in every day.
Steenhout: "The vast majority of reported incidents are related to public cleanliness (more than half), followed by problems with the street, such as damage to the road surface, open manhole covers, overturned bollards or traffic signs, and defects in public lighting. For the government, it is important that they can demonstrate how quickly they intervene."
Generally, this is quite fast, although it varies greatly depending on the type of incident reported. Rubbish is usually cleared within a period of three days. For problems to street furniture or the road itself, the waiting time can be up to 50 days."
Steenhout's investigation will take a total of four years. The first two Years are behind us. "During the first phase, we mainly surveyed city services, including how information flows. We also already did a small survey of about 60 respondents to see how they perceive FMS and how often they use it."
That first exploratory survey already shows that the majority of respondents are satisfied. "But there are also people who complain," says Steenhout. "The fact that you install a digital platform where citizens can report incidents directly creates the expectation that a solution will follow immediately. We also see more and more social problems being reported, such as nuisance around squats and issues related to the refugee problem.
"We are obviously interested, together with the Brussels Capital Region, in how a platform like FixMyStreet is perceived by citizens," Steenhout said. "This is why we are massively calling on citizens to make their voices heard through a survey that polls their experiences. The results will be sent to the Brussels Capital Region and the various municipalities using FixMyStreet. This will allow FixMyStreet to be tailored even better to the needs of citizens. The participants must obviously be familiar with FMS and ideally have already used it."