Sunday, April 7, 2013

SeeClickFix: Russian Implementation

SeeClickFix (SCF) is a social platform that encourages residents to participate in taking care of and improving their neighborhoods by reporting non-emergency issues to over a hundred governments using a smart-phone, computer or other devices with Internet access. The platform was originally launched by a citizen with “a desire to improve his own community with his neighbors and his government” (learn more here). Since 2008, over 250,000 issues reported to the site were solved and the platform is constantly growing bringing citizens and governments in new districts on board.

Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media launched a federal initiative the Unified Portal of E-Democracy ( to encourage citizens’ participation in solving issues affecting their everyday lives. Unlike SCF, the platform is fully run by the federal government. Regional government participation is necessary for the portal to function fully. However, although the site lists all regions of Russia as participants, not all of them have joined the initiative.

Table below demonstrates a brief comparison of the platforms:

Launched in
Site administration
SCF team, community groups
Federal government
Site registration
Government authorization
Phone application
Geographical units
Anonymous inquiries
Gov’t engagement
Educational materials

Reporting on neighborhood issues such as housing, roads, transportation, government service delivery, etc. is only one of the functions of The Unified Portal of E-Democracy offers other online tools that fit into the broader agenda of E-Democracy System recently adopted in Russia: discussion of government documents and filing collective complaints. In addition, the site has a federal government blog. It is worth mentioning that the site was launched in 2012 and so far it has a single blog record – on President signing the Federal Law "On Amendments to the Federal Law on Personal Data".

In order to participate in the site activities and report issues, one has to register. The registration is only available with official login information provided by the government and requires a user to disclose personal data such as real name, age, address, etc. Rumor has it that the site at first did not require such a complex registration procedure but the users “abused” the platform by submitting false reports and jokes and there was no way “to hold citizens accountable for the information they were providing”. As one Russian government official commented on this feature of the platform: “democracy also includes responsibility.” Therefore, authorization is now required to participate in these democratic acts.  The site has a page devoted to educational video materials that help users learn how to register and use other functions of the platform, provides other education materials on ICT policies.

One of the challenges that SCF faces is that some governments reject to collaborate and do not engage in the initiative. In Russia, since imposed by the federal government, the expectation is that all regions will be required to use the platform and respond to every inquiry. But what about the citizens? 

One of the advantages of SCF is that it does not set boundaries: citizens report any non-emergency issues they face and they actively participate in seeking solutions, including coming to help each other whenever possible. The site builds a sense of community and mutual support. 

The nature of the problems the Russian site encourages to report (directly related to government activities) and the complicated authorization process eliminates citizens’ possibilities to help each other. The site relies on the municipal governments’ response where the reports are sent (in case the region has joined the portal). 

In general, seems unpopular and hard to navigate. One indicator is rating of the regions – none of the regions has been rated by the citizens so far (see rating here). The complexities of registration process contributed to bringing the number of reports down. The mobile application has not been developed, which it creates additional limitation for using the tool. 

Will the citizens utilize the site given that they have no ownership over this idea? We shall see as it is too early to draw any conclusions yet considering the Russian platform been around for less than a year.

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