SINGAPORE: The Municipal Services Office (MSO) has changed the way it labels closed cases on its OneService App to better reflect the status of the feedback on the ground.
This is one of the several enhancements it has made to the app, a “one-stop” community platform where users may give feedback on municipal issues ranging from cleanliness to infrastructure maintenance.
Other improvements include a Municipal 360 (M360) initiative, where cases are only labelled closed upon complete resolution, with photographic evidence of completed works.
The app will also include home renovation notices to its ‘Happenings’ section. Housing and Development Board (HDB) residents can check on the app for upcoming HDB home renovations taking place in their block. It was progressively rolled out from the end of June.
This is in addition to the new OneService chatbot service launched in July, where residents can report municipal issues in their neighbourhood via a chatbot on WhatsApp and Telegram.
MSO made these changes to its OneService app in response to public feedback, MSO’s senior director of service quality and community engagement Kenneth Kwok told CNA.
RENAMING OF CASE STATUS
Previously, feedback cases submitted through the OneService app would be labelled as closed once the agency or town council has replied to the feedback.
While this would mean the end of the communication, residents might feel that the cases have not been closed, said Mr Kwok, adding that this was why MSO created two separate tracks within the app.
In straightforward cases, where the agency or town council can provide photographic evidence to show the completed works, MSO would consider the case resolved. For instance, cleaners could take a picture of a cleaned location in response to a cleanliness complaint.
This would come under the M360 initiative, which was piloted in Jan 2020 with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and 17 town councils. HDB joined the initiative in January this year and plans are underway to include more agencies, such as the Land Transport Authority, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the PUB.
In more complex cases where the agency needs more time to investigate, conduct surveillance or maintenance works, the case will be labelled as “Reply from Agency” or “Reply from Town Council” with a description of planned actions and an estimated timeline.
“We think it’s a more accurate reflection of the status of the work that actually, hasn’t closed, hasn’t been resolved yet, it’s still ongoing work, and then the agency is committing to you that they will follow up,” said Mr Kwok.
Other than a platform for residents to submit feedback, the aim is for the app to be a "one-stop place" for residents.
“We know that there are so many apps out there, right? And the more we can make it a one-stop place for residents to come to, we just thought it's easier for everyone,” said Mr Kwok, adding that the initiative was partly due to the current attention on noise issues.
At the moment, residents may not be aware of renovation notices, said Mr Kwok. This is because owners and contractors only need to place notices outside the unit under renovation.
Notices also need to be given to the units adjacent to the affected flat, as well as the units two floors above and below.
In addition, different town council management practices may mean that the notices are not always available at lift lobbies for all residents to see, said MSO.
“With that information, hopefully people can then … make plans and then maybe (they) can go to a relative’s place to work for the next few days or something like that,” he said.
According to Mr Kwok, the most common types of issues on the app are cleanliness issues, HDB-related issues and feedback on roads and footpaths.
However, there has also been a recent increase in "neighbourly issues", probably due to work-from-home arrangements, he said. These issues include noise and smoking in homes.
“I think issues like that where a lot of times I suppose previously we weren’t at home so we may not be so aware or so sensitive to or so affected by,” he said.
"But then I think now there's a greater realisation that with everyone ... spending more time at home, the behaviours of our neighbours do actually affect us as well."
Many cases lodged on the OneService app fall neatly into one of its 12 categories, said Mr Kwok. The twelve categories are cleanliness, pests, roads and footpaths, animals and birds, facilities in HDB estates, drinking water, drains and sewers, parks and greenery, construction sites, abandoned trolleys, shared bicycles, as well as illegal parking.
Once submitted, the issue would go to the relevant agency or the town council, which is “quite straightforward”.
Other issues may be less clear cut, and may require the coordination of several agencies, such as pigeon feeding which will involve NParks’ Animal and Veterinary Service and the NEA.
“But I think what we’ve also realised is that a lot of issues that are behaviour-related, it’s not something the agency can just go in and solve immediately,” he said, adding that this is where residents might take issue with how the app classifies cases as “closed”.
For instance, HDB speaking to a neighbour does not guarantee that the neighbour will stop making noise, which means that the case is still ongoing.
“Noise is what we consider a complex case, because it’s very unpredictable in terms of our ability to promise and yes this will definitely be solved by (a certain date),” he said.
Subjectivity also plays a part in how complex the issue is. Noise could mean different things to different people, while cooking smells could be unpleasant to some people.
“It’s very difficult for (the) Government to legislate what is a pleasant smell, what is an unpleasant smell and I don’t think Singapore wants to go down that route,” said Mr Kwok.
To avoid enforcing and penalising such cases, it takes a “more human approach” where it tries to engage with residents and encourage neighbours to be more considerate to one another, he added.
Recurring cases could include a recalcitrant resident that continues to litter the common areas even after the town council has cleaned them up.
READ: Residents can soon book neighbourhood facilities, get parking receipts on MSO's OneService app
Residents facing such issues can let the agency know that the situation has not been resolved, said Mr Kwok. He added that MSO compiles such feedback and works with agencies to follow up on the cases, if necessary.
Another option is for a resident to log a new case. “Once we see that there is a pattern, we will then reply to you in a different way, because we’re like 'oh, okay, this is not just a straightforward cleaning',” he said.
Recurrent cases will take "probably take a much longer time" to resolve, he added, because of the surveillance work and public education needed.
With more than 350,000 users, and 1.09 million pieces of feedback received by government agencies and town councils, the OneService app has grown over its five years in operation.
But Mr Kwok hopes to raise more awareness of the app among Singaporeans.
“We want every Singaporean to know that the OneService app is here for you if you need it,” he said, adding that people should take the necessary steps to resolve their issues first, if they can.
“We do believe that sometimes when people take the responsibility for their issue or they actually try to intervene themselves, they can actually solve it better than a government agency can solve it."