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App of the Month: Solutions Reporter

Have you ever been idle on the phone line, waiting to get through, to let your local representative know that a large tree branch has just fallen in the middle of the road? I have, and then only when I looked out the window did I realize that someone had mysteriously come by to clear it. Using simple apps would have saved me time and kept me informed, just like July’s App of the Month, Solutions Reporter, does for the residents, councillors and staff members of the Town of Truro, Nova Scotia. The app—which is actually three apps that are connected together—allows people to submit complaints easily and shows the status of each complaint made.

We’ve highlighted the Town of Truro’s GIS accomplishments before, from their becoming a Community Map of Canada contributor to their creation of an ArcGIS Hub that helps improve communication and public engagement. Now, the Town’s two-person GIS department has developed a new app that allows citizens to easily submit complaints to the municipality and track the status of those complaints on a map: the Solutions Reporter.

Making it easy

The Solutions Reporter app consists of three connected pieces: an ArcGIS Survey123 form, which residents of the Town use to report issues; a hosted feature layer on ArcGIS Online, which displays pending, in-progress and completed issues on a map of Truro; and an ArcGIS Dashboards app, which provides quick-access reporting to Town staff and councillors.

If you want your residents to engage with and participate in an effort, you need to make the experience straightforward and effortless. The Solutions Reporter survey, created with ArcGIS Survey123, is an easy and efficient way for people to make their complaints to the Town.

A preview of the Solutions Reporter survey. Users are asked to fill in fields identifying the type of problem they have, their full name, their address, their phone number, details of the problem and the location of the problem. They are also asked to submit their email address for follow-up purposes. 

In terms of creating the form, the Town’s GIS team used ArcGIS Survey123, and like the name indicates, building a Survey123 form is as easy as 1-2-3…  ha. But all (attempted) jokes aside, Survey123 provides you with different question blocks that you can use to build a form. There are 22 blocks in total to choose from, which you can drag, drop and rearrange to your liking. Like any other ArcGIS app, the appearance can be customized to fit your branding.

This image shows the 22 types of question blocks that an ArcGIS Survey123 user can add to their survey. The types include Singleline Text, Single Choice, Multiple Choice, Rating, Number, Time, Image, Email, Signature and more.

Live feedback

Using Survey123 can be as simple as adding question components, or as complicated as configuring a webhook to send you an email notification whenever someone submits the form. It really depends on your business needs. Amanda Bent, a planning and GIS technician at the Town of Truro, only needed a few weeks to get the Solutions Reporter up and running. That goes to show how simple it is to prop up a survey and incorporate a workflow into it.

Using the Solutions Reporter survey, residents of the Town essentially create work orders for the municipality, as the Reporter asks users to locate each complaint on a map. That spatial information and the details of the complaint are instantly stored as records in a hosted feature layer on ArcGIS Online. This hosted feature layer can then be used to display that information to the stakeholders that the complaint involves. Amanda added this layer to an ArcGIS Dashboards app as a form of quick reporting for Town staff and councillors.

The Town is using the same hosted feature layer to show residents the progress being made on each complaint in an ArcGIS Web AppBuilder app. This app informs the public that yes, the complaint has been filed and is being worked on. The map contains a legend that displays the status of each complaint and the categories each complaint falls into, as defined by the user’s input in the survey. Huzzah! It feels so good to be heard! 

Screenshot of the Solutions Reporter Progress Map in an ArcGIS Web AppBuilder app. On the left is a legend indicating what each icon on the map to the right means. On the right, the map shows the locations of several in-progress and resolved issues that have been raised by residents of Truro, Nova Scotia.

Although the app was launched on June 7, 2021, residents have already created 10 entries. With this new engagement app, the Town of Truro is hoping to increase its transparency to its citizens and effectively allocate staff and councillors’ time to getting problems solved.

ArcGIS Survey123 is a simple and intuitive form-centric data gathering solution. Learn about the latest updates in ArcGIS Survey123 now!

Interested in creating your own app? Explore ArcGIS Survey123.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Mingsze Ho is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. Fascinated with displaying data in a spatial way, she focuses on generating story maps and other applications using Esri technology. She discovered her passion for maps when she started colouring and drawing maps in elementary school, and she was determined to become a cartographer. Mingsze loves how a map can illustrate the ways that certain features or phenomena affect human lives. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, she realized the world had moved on to digital maps. She was heartbroken initially, until she discovered the power of GIS and how it can be used to leverage both art and data to create beautiful, interactive maps. In her free time, Mingsze continues to draw maps. She just really likes maps.

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