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As part of our channel shift strategy, we deployed a web-based service called ‘MyNorwich’ so that citizens can enjoy fast access to information.

Transforming citizen services with successful channel shifting

Residents of Norwich now enjoy better public services and improved access to information following the introduction of a web-based service called ‘MyNorwich’. Developed using geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri UK, this online tool has amplified the effectiveness of the council’s ‘channel shifting’ strategy and contributed to a 21% decrease in telephone enquiries.


Case study – Local Government


Citizens enjoy faster, more convenient access to information via the Internet and consequently make fewer calls to the council

The integration of GIS with web-based contact forms helps the council to improve the delivery of public services

Norwich City Council can work more efficiently, potentially saving over 4 months work for one employee every year

The Challenge

Norwich City Council wanted to be able to focus its financial resources on delivering services to those citizens who are most in need of support. To help it save money in other less critical service areas, it decided to stimulate channel shifting, a strategy that involves encouraging citizens to use the Internet to access public information rather than telephoning or visiting council offices. Industry-recognised figures (SOCITM, 2012) state that while face-to-face enquiries cost councils £7.64 and telephone contact costs £4.56, information can be served over the Internet for just 17 pence.

For its channel shifting strategy to work, Norwich City Council needed to be able to make far more information about council services and local amenities available via its web site, in a format that would allow citizens to find exactly what they wanted to know, quickly and easily. The council also needed to find new ways to enable people to communicate with the council online and report issues such as fly-tipping or graffiti without needing to speak to a member of staff.

“ The success of our channel shifting strategy helps us to free up resources and funding, so that we can focus on providing support for vulnerable people and delivering vital public services

Anton Bull – Executive Head of Business Relationship Management and Democracy at Norwich City Council

The Solution

Using a web GIS solution from Esri UK, Norwich City Council worked with its IT partner, Local Government Shared Services, to develop a new public-facing web application. Called MyNorwich, it enables citizens to enter an address to find out their waste collection dates or locate their nearest schools, parks, grit bins and much more besides.

Next, the council embedded GIS functionality into a range of online forms, which members of the public can fill in to report street scene issues to the council. Some of these forms combine Esri mapping with integration capabilities, which enables them to be sent directly to appointed contractors. For instance, when citizens open the council’s online form for reporting illegal fly-tipping, they click on a GIS map to pinpoint the site of the rubbish, and this accurate location reference is sent directly to the contractor responsible for clearing the area

“ By including mapping in our online forms, we are able to collect much more accurate information about issues in the community from members of the public

Anton Bull – Executive Head of Business Relationship Management and Democracy at Norwich City Council

Benefits

Improved access to information
MyNorwich provides citizens with a fast, convenient way to access information, and it routinely receives 4,000-5,000 hits a month, a significantly high figure in relation to the city’s population of 250,000 people. “Members of the public can use MyNorwich to find the information they need themselves on our web site, straight away, without having to phone us anymore,” says Anton Bull, Executive Head of Business Relationship Management and Democracy at Norwich City Council. “It’s more convenient for them and more cost effective for us.”

Evidence of successful channel shifting
Over a two year period following the launch of MyNorwich, Norwich City Council recorded a 21% decrease in calls to its customer contact centre. “MyNorwich is clearly one very important facility that is helping the council to achieve this reduction in inbound calls and make cost savings,” Bull says. “The success of our channel shifting strategy helps us to free up resources and funding, so that we can focus on providing support for vulnerable people and delivering vital public services.”

Better services for citizens
As well as delivering cost efficiencies, GIS is also helping the council to improve the effectiveness of its public services. “By including mapping in our online forms, we are able to collect much more accurate information about issues in the community from members of the public,” says Bull. “Contractors receive precise details about where problems are located, so repairs and clean-up activities can be initiated more quickly.”

Efficient internal processes
Within the council, several teams are now able to work more efficiently too. Previously, the council received in excess of 1,400 fly-tipping reports a year, which took at least five minutes each to process internally. Now that the fly-tipping form process is fully automated, with the forms passing straight to contractors, the council is relieved of this administrative task. “We save around 120 hours a year from this one form alone,” Bull says. The council plans to develop nine more automated forms, so when it does, it could potentially save the equivalent of over 4 month’s work for one full-time employee.

A stronger city community
As an added benefit, the council believes that MyNorwich helps to improve community participation, by encouraging people to avail of local amenities and engage in the democratic process. “MyNorwich helps people to understand more about the area they live in,” concludes Bull. “They can find out about community centres, allotments, parks and their local councillors, and use this information to get more involved in their neighbourhoods.”

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