Look inside 'Our City'. How the portal works

Look inside 'Our City'. How the portal works
Photo: mos.ru. Maxim Denisov
Over the eight years of existence, the portal has helped to solve more than 3.7 million issues of Moscow residents.

Eight years ago, you had to spend a lot of time and effort to have your entrance lobby door fixed, a pothole patched or some other urgent issue solved. First, you had to identify an authority in charge, then come to their office to write an application. 'Our City' portal has changed the situation. Read about how this useful service works now.

'Our City' is an online portal where every Moscow resident can monitor the quality of maintenance of courtyards, houses, roads and other urban infrastructure facilities. Take a picture of the problem, give a brief description and submit an application. Within eight days, the issue will be solved. You will be informed in due course in case more time is needed.

Alexander Pishchelko, Head of New Management Technologies SPI

'The key advantage of the portal is that it is easy to use. To solve a particular issue, you only need to have a smart phone or a computer with Internet access. No need to contact authorities to find an organisation in charge of the issue, just send a message by selecting the category of your problem,' said Alexander Pishchelko, Head of the New Management Technologies SPI maintaining and developing Our City.

It has a convenient unified classifier of problems divided into ten categories.

'The portal guarantees that any issue included in the classifier will be solved within eight business days. In rare conditions, if the problem cannot be solved within the specified time, the user who left the application is informed about the specific terms of solving the problem and the reasons for extending the time,' said Alexander Pishchelko.

Who processes messages and how it works

The messages are processed and the responses of competent authorities are checked by Our City's editorial office comprising more than 30 moderators. They work every day. Moderators are regularly trained to acquire new skills and expand knowledge of the legal framework.

There are strict regulations: each complaint must be processed and sent to the competent authority within 24 hours from the date of application.

'The Portal has a well-established routine. The time between receiving a complaint and forwarding it to the competent agency shall not exceed 24 hours. The average moderation time is six hours. The editorial office has a large online screen with pending requests on a particular topic and the time left. The team leader makes sure that the applications with the shortest moderation period are processed first,' said Alexander Pishchelko.

Photo: mos.ru. Maxim Denisov

Before posting a message, a moderator reviews the facility's and the user’s history, checks previously published messages and responses, and checks the maps and tags set by the user if necessary. A set of attributes is particularly important, namely the text and photos attached to the message should be about only one problem corresponding the topic. Each case is different and should be studied carefully. For example, the same user may send seemingly similar messages about a problem. But on closer scrutiny, the causes of these problems turn out to be completely different, and this affects the choice of the application's responsible agency. After the moderator checks to make sure all the attributes of the message comply with the uniform rules, he or she posts it on the portal.

Step by step: application processing

After the user has selected a topic from the classifier, gave a description and attached photos, he or she submits the message for moderation, with a relevant e-mail notification sent to the user.

The message goes to the editor for moderation. It will be processed within 24 hours to be further posted on the portal or rejected. If the message is published, the user will receive an e-mail notification. The status 'Pending' is displayed in the user’s personal account. If the message is rejected for non-compliance with the uniform moderation rules, the user also receives an e-mail notification. In addition, notification may specify what needs to be corrected to have the message accepted.

When published on the portal, the message automatically gets to the account of the competent agency. This is an automated process, since each problem topic has a responsible agency assigned.

Photo: mos.ru. Maxim Denisov

After moderation

The authority receiving the message is to process it within eight business days. Asset holders, supervisory bodies, city administration complexes and many others get involved in the process. Most of them are not publicly available on the portal, but are directly involved in revealing and elimination of violations.

Before publishing the authority's response, the moderator checks the photos and documents attached, including additional technical documentation, which is not always published but helps to assess the work done.

The quality of response is important for moderators. They check whether the road surface is really repaired, an entrance lobby cleaned, or a streetlight is fixed in the park. In case of poor performance, the moderator rejects the response and sends the application for revision.

Can an application be rejected?

If the complaint fails to comply with the portal's rules, the moderator rejects it. The user receives a notification to the e-mail specified during registration explaining the reason why the message cannot be published, and advised on what to do next. A common reason for rejection is describing more than one issue related to different topics in one message. For example, no lighting on one of the landings in the entrance hall, smashed mirror in the lift and a broken mailbox. In these cases, the user is advised to re-submit the application having divided it into three different messages with different topics.

If the problem is not listed in the portal classifier, the message, with the consent of the user, can be redirected to the competent authority, but not according to the portal's standards.

Photo: mos.ru. Maxim Denisov

Our City's development

Our City has existed for eight years. This project launched in 2011. First, it included three separate portals, namely Our City. Moscow Development Program, Moscow Roads and Moscow Buildings, united in 2013. It was then that the unified problem classifier was introduced.

'There are new topics appearing every year, so we are working on expanding our classifier. In 2014, we launched the first crowdsourcing project dedicated to Our City's development. Moscow residents submitted some 9,000 ideas, as full-fledged participants in the portal's life. About 60 new topics have been added.

The portal is continuously developing, with its features improved, the list of competent authorities extended and much more. All our employees, including me, use the portal to understand in practice how to improve, facilitate and simplify the process,' Alexander Pishchelko told.

Since the portal's launch, more than 3.7 million issues have been solved, with this figure increasing daily. At the moment, there are more than 1.4 million registered users in Our City.