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In Abu Dhabi, A Government-Led "Civic" App Is Surprisingly Popular

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, September 12 2013

A simple, free smartphone application called CityGuard has given thousands of Abu Dhabi residents the opportunity to be more involved in maintaining their communities. The government-developed mobile application allows citizens to report civic issues with just a few swipes on their smartphones. According to FutureGov Asia, the crowdsourcing initiative is surprisingly popular and successful. The app is the “cornerstone” of the Abu Dhabi government's initiative to empower and engage citizens through technology.

In only a few months the app has been downloaded 14,000 times, according to FutureGov Asia. In June, an early report on the app by Gulf News said that customer satisfaction with CityGuard hovered between 82 to 90 percent.

Khaled Al Mazrouie, business information manager at the Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre (SIC), told FutureGov Asia that they were worried about how the public would receive the app, but they were pleasantly surprised by the “high number of valid incidents coming in.”

Getting more specific, he added: “As of September, we have collected about 500,000 cases in the system which we are now using to further improve our public services.”

“I think [the app] is one of the key components that the government uses to be more transparent because we need to hear from people, and by this, everybody who wants to use [the app] will be like an inspector of the government,” the Director-general of Abu Dhabi SIC, Rashid Lahej Al Mansouri, told Gulf News.

The tool is simple: the user can take a photo, video, or audio recording of the incident, use an interactive map to pinpoint the location, and then immediately file the case with the Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre. The case is then “promptly” assigned to the “appropriate government entity.”

It seems the local government has enthusiastically backed the initiative. The YouTube account Abu Dhabi e-Government published this commercial for CityGuard in August:

The app is similar to Lungisa, a community monitoring tool in South Africa that I wrote about earlier this summer, but that initiative was started by community members, not the government. But Lungisa allows reporting from multiple platforms, which is something CityGuard lacks.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.