Singapore, it is time to own your own town

The following article was originally published by Benjamin Isaiah Tan on Facebook.

Have you ever heard neighbours complain about problems in your estate? Perhaps the lights in common areas have not been working for days? Or rubbish was left along the common corridors and not cleared? Had someone gotten so drunk and defecated conveniently at the stairwell next to your apartment, leaving you to bear with the smell and inconvenience the next few days and worst, it has not been cleared by anyone. Or is something broken at the playground where your children spend a good part of their time. All these whilst you feel helpless to the problem and you know not what you could do about it.

What are your actions then? Some hunt down town council cleaners and request for service. Others will approach the town council’s supervisor. In today’s world though, most people would conveniently snap a picture, post it on social media and vent their frustrations there. Chances are you or someone you know had already done this.

Be that as it may, I hope that there was a little voice inside of you that screamed, “YES! I would like to do something about this problem, I just don’t know if I have the power to do anything about it at all!”

Guess what? You are not alone. I once felt that way too. The desire and courage to want the best for our family, our loved ones and to take ownership of our homes is powerful, but seldom manifested. Ownership doesn’t just mean legal ownership, but also equitable ownership of the community at large.

We all have the desire to improve our living environment, but lack the tools and resource to help us.

Taking a picture of a problem is a good start, but posting it to social media may not be the best solution. The minute or two that you take to rant on Facebook, is all the time you need to post it to an alternative platform that would have been more effective.

I’m talking about the smartphone app [email protected]

In 2013, 12 town councils (under PAP control) launched an application called “[email protected]”. Developed over a period of 6 months, the goal of the app was to reach out to public housing residents whom are smart phone savvy.

“The key thinking is to provide an additional communication tool for residents with smartphones”, said Dr. Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman of the PAP town councils.

I started using the app in 2014 after being acquainted with it through Zhenghua-Segar Meadows Resident Committee’s Chairman, Mr Alex Chen. Since then I had been consistently wow-ed by the efficiency of the town councils, each report was met with timely response.

Here’s how to use it, in 3 simple steps:

1.) Take a photo using the app

2.) Provide address and location of the problem

3.) Provide a brief description of the problem and precise location of the defect or maintenance

In my experience after making a report, the town council in charge of the area would respond with an acknowledgement of the report and prescribe the actions thy would taking to resolve it. Recently, I learnt from the local town council officer in charge of my estate that the app is integrated with existing estate management systems used by PAP controlled town councils. This provides for more productive use of data and faster turn-around time.

My friends and neighbours have nothing but praises for this simple yet powerful solution. The issues we have reported range from complaints such as faulty lights, damaged/defective common property, leaking linkway/canopies to suggestions such as installation of road crossing signages and even request for enforcement action at areas where illegal parking is rampant.

This simple app had worked for me and the community and I have been happy with the results. With little publicity and recognition for more than 2 years, I think it is time someone reviewed and gave more attention to this piece of technological genius developed by the PAP town councils.



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