Human Sensing: When everyone has a stake
As many other countries, Moldova faces some challenges in ensuring that the state institutions help uphold rules and rights of ordinary people. This lack of capacity reinforced such a phenomenon as shadow economy, but at the same time, it contributed to falling trust of people as the state is unable to respond to their legitimate needs.
We have thought that having a tool that would allow citizens to report on certain irregularities and get feedback from the responsible institutions might help bridging this gap to some extent. In 2015 we have scanned horizon on solutions to similar issues in some other countries and identified a good example of Montenegro — “Budi Odgovoran” platform. We have reverse engineered to Moldovan context and this is how ImiPasa (“I Care” in English) was born.
Four features that make ImiPasa stand out:
Make it simple
Lack of time has become a usual excuse for people who are not getting involved in decision-making or simply providing feedback to service providers. Add to this the way how citizens can petition in Moldova and your chances to have people’s feedback are slim.
So, if we wanted ImiPasa to work, it had to be as simple and straightforward as possible: 30 seconds to complete the reporting form, either on the PC or the mobile application (available on iOS and Android). Moreover, Imipasa mobile application and mobile telephone responsive web-site allows users to take pictures directly in the application or web-page — so, you are not constrained to save and seek them, afterwards, in your phone. No less important, it was co-designed with potential users of the ImiPasa platform.
Thanks to this, Imipasa benefited from significant public interest during its first piloting months: more than 250,000 page visits, about 40,000 unique visitors. Main indicators of market for mobile access to internet continue to go up, according to the National Regulatory Agency.
Feedback leads to trust
Due to low institutional responsiveness the people’s trust to public authorities plummeted to historical lows in recent years. Working on the Imipasa platform we were thinking how to tackle this issue. We thought a feature allowing citizens to track the progress of the report they submit would make a trick and help retain interest of citizens, and as a by-product will help increase trust towards public agencies.
On every change of the report status (e.g. received, in the examination, resolved, rejected) made by the inspectors, citizens receive notifications both to their personal Imipasa account on the platform and to the emails. In addition, we made all reports public as to ensure transparency and trackable changes taken by the public institution, for all platform’s visitors and this increased ownership and accountability of the public institutions as well — a Hawthorne effect in all its beauty. Worth noting, we had to be artful on making the citizen reports public as it is necessary to identify a golden middle between transparency and protection of business data, if cases of slandering or defamation are taking place.
More incentives — more social good
Moldovan citizens, as it has been mentioned above, are frustrated with the work of public institutions. Sometimes, even when citizens want to report any irregularity, subconsciously, they do not believe in the success of the reporting as they do not see the outcome of it. Consequently, they give up on reporting.
This seemingly intractable issue had to be overcome somehow! Thus, we devised an incentives’ mechanism to show citizens the benefits of their engagement. Along with our partners from the UK Embassy to Moldova, we set up a fund to support community projects. Imipasa users could come up with ideas of community projects and complete very simple template on the Imipasa platform.
Another specific feature, giving the citizens a feeling of the solution’s ownership, was an option to select the projects by the citizens via voting for the best idea directly on the platform. As a result, we gathered 83 community projects proposals, out of which five were chosen for financing.
Worth mentioning, such crowdsourcing tool can serve not only for incentivising civic participation, but also in the scope of mapping community problems — a useful gizmos for a neat budget planning responding to citizens’ needs and preferences.
Sustainability — a vital element of Imipasa existence
When we started developing Imipasa we’ve thought about how it can be sustained. The solution was to make Imipasa is not an additional burden for the public institutions but a part of the daily business processes of public institutions. Each institution has a separate interface in the back-office of the platform, and public servants having access data (login and password) can use the platform from any device connected to internet. Importantly, while working with the IT developers we asked to make Imipasa simple in management and technical maintenance.
Looking into the future:
Imipasa — a governmental civic reporting hub
So far, Imipasa encompasses the irregularities managed by one institution — Consumer Protection Agency, and two other institutions — Tax Office and National Agency of Public Health — will join Imipasa platform shortly. Last year, Prime-Minister Office addressed with the request to extend the irregularities presented on the platform, and to mandate the platform as a centralised governmental civic reporting hub on the irregularities.
As for the incentives, our proposal to the Government is to develop an alternative incentives scheme, a more sustainable one. Our idea is to redirect a part of the fines collected via Imipasa platform to the community projects put forward and selected by the Imipasa users akin to the approach taken by our Montenegrin colleagues. By this we kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand, we’ll foster civic participation; on the other– we’ll contribute to solving different social problems.
Info: Imipasa is an online civic reporting mechanism allowing citizens to submit the irregularities they meet. According to the official data, over 1 million 750 thousand of users have mobile access to Internet (via smartphones to tablets) in Moldova. The idea of Imipasa is to capitalize on the situation through engendering indispensable linkages between citizens (as reporters), and public institutions.