Inspiration

Montréal (Canada) residents suffer from a lack of transparency regarding 311 calls (see articles from CBC here and the Montréal Gazette here). The most recurring complaint is timeliness of service, which we believe stems from a lack of communication about what the status of a 311 call is or even where to find that data (it took us several Google searches to find the complete list of 311 data from the city government). Using the power of ESRI's ArcGIS Python and Javascript APIs, we created a dashboard that residents can use to check on the status of 311 calls made within the city boundary and visualize it by location by searching a particular address or zooming into their neighborhood.

What it does

Let's say you submit a 311 call to the City of Montréal and then wait weeks to hear back regarding the status of your request. Cue the frustration at your slow-moving government with its lack of transparency. Perhaps you even file a complaint or write to your local official inquiring about your request. But that's more work for you, and an additional agenda item that a government official has to get to, thus taking them away from hundreds of other equally (or more) important tasks. What to do?

Enter 311 WhatsMyStatus? - the dashboard that will save you AND your local official time and a bureaucracy-related headache. Simply visit the dashboard and either enter your address in the search bar at the top right if you want to see the service requests around your neighborhood, or put in the street name or general location associated with your request, and voilà! your request will appear on the map.

Please note that if you make a 311 request that is non-location based, it will not show up on this map. Additionally, records that were created prior to 2021 have been filtered out for clarity purposes, but we hope to implement the ability for you to search by date of creation soon!

For consideration from the Stanford McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society Prize Most Ethically Engaged Hack:

Using 3-1-1 to help citizens practice civic engagement is not unique to Montréal. We came across the privacy policy for the NYC 311 service and saw that there were a number of principles that they follow, including accountability and limiting the collection, access, disclosure, and length of retention of personal information. While we weren't able to find a similar document for the Ville de Montréal (perhaps it was in French), we imagine that there is a similar framework in place. Regardless, we were careful to limit the amount of information that one could see when looking at a specific 311 request without compromising the usefulness of the service. For example, we chose to keep the type of complaint and where it was located so that citizens could find their request on the map; however, there were no personal data that would be able to identify the person who initiated the 311 call. This dashboard also addresses the issue of equity regarding timeliness of 311 call fulfillment. For example, in Boston and other cities across the US, there were reports that 311 calls made in lower-income neighborhoods were on average being taken care of at a slower rate than calls coming from higher-income areas. This dashboard can help address potential inequalities in Montréal because it makes it easy to see the status of calls in various neighborhoods and will help the government remain transparent about where they're choosing to allocate resources to address 311 requests.

How we built it

We started with a massive set of 311 data from 2016 to present day and then filtered the CSV file using Python and Jupyter Notebooks to just the rows of data that had longitude and latitude listed (1,000,000+ records). We then created a web layer from this new CSV file and then used ESRI's geolocation capabilities to turn the web layer into a feature layer mapped onto a base layer of Montréal. From there, the ArcGIS Web AppBuilder was able to help us create a highly interactive platform that groups requests by its status and includes a number of features to share this map, such as social media sharing, screenshot capabilities, and different base map styles.

Challenges we ran into

Given the complex nature of 311 data (there are all sorts of calls made, many without longitude and latitude coordinates) and the sheer amount of requests made each day (thousands), we were working with an incredibly large and incomplete dataset. It was challenging for us to work with such a huge amount of data, so we had to make careful decisions about which 311 calls to omit and how many to show on the map. We were also learning how to use the ESRI software for the first time, but the tutorials, office hours (shoutout to the ESRI team for being in the Sponsors booth every hour!), and general intuitiveness of the platform made the learning curve less intense.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are excited that we were able to get a dashboard up and running using ESRI's software!

What we learned

Data cleaning in Python, ESRI APIs, and how easy it is to create an interactive dashboard using the ArcGIS Web AppBuilder!

What's next for 311 WhatsMyStatus?

Due to time constraints, we weren't able to set up a pipeline for 311 data to be updated automatically for the dashboard. This feature would be massively useful for citizens to be able to see their requests appear in real time (depending on when the data is released by the Ville de Montréal government). We'd also love to be able to sort the data by date, so that a person can toggle the dashboard view to see all of the requests made on a certain day.

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