The Johannesburg Road Agency’s app for reporting problems – Find&Fix – is a whole two weeks old now, which in computer years is clearly a lifetime. It’s been through two updates on the Google Play store, and last week the agency put the finishing touches to its iOS version and released in to the wild. This is the first, formal widespread digital reporting scheme of its kind in South Africa, so it behooves us to find out how it’s getting on at every turn. Which behooved.

A quick chat with JRA spokesperson Bertha Peters-Scheepers this afternoon reveals that there are already distinct patterns emerging in the app use. JRA’s jurisdiction is split into seven areas from Orange Farm to Midrand, as indicated in the map below.

JRA's operational districts. Each works semi-autonomously under central control.
JRA’s operational districts. Each works semi-autonomously under central control.

As might have been predicted, Peters-Scheepers says that the app is being used most heavily in regions A and C – which covers the Northern suburbs and Randburg/Beyers Naude. It’s least used in regions D and G. Clearly that’s a pattern that could cause concerns about a potential ‘digital divide’ as more government services go online. It’s early days for the app, however, and it will be interesting to see how JRA attempts to combat this in the future.

Overall, though, she says that the agency has been very happy with the app use. In two weeks, 3 139 people have downloaded the app and 2 195 issues have been reported. Normally, she says, the agency would log around 1 000 issues by email alone per week, and there’s already signs (again, too early to read much in to) that increased use of the app is coinciding with reduced use of other channels.

What’s really promising, says Peters-Scheepers, is that of the 2 195 issues reported 524 were immediately recognised as duplicates – meaning fewer work teams were sent out to tackle the same problem twice.

On the technical side, the IT team says that it was prepared for tackling a lot of bugs in the first two weeks and so far there’s been nothing show stopping. The next big task is to streamline the backend reporting system so that app reports are fed directly to relevant work teams rather than via a central intermediary.

One of the biggest issues that the team has come across so far is from people trying to download the app onto tablets, which aren’t supported yet. This needs to be labelled with more clarity says Peters-Scheepers.

So what have people actually been reporting? The stats are dominated by potholes and traffic signals – as you might expect. They break down like this:

 

Issue Number of reports
Potholes 1254
Robots 547
General issues 156
Manhole covers 130
Stormwater drains 63
Signage 45
Total 2195

The person who tried, inexplicably, to report a picture of their dog would presumably have gone into the ‘general’ category.

Peters-Scheepers says that one issue that has cropped up is what to do when people report things the JRA isn’t responsible for. If the issue falls under the auspices of another Joburg body, like City Power, JRA will forward the ticket on directly. Where people have tried to report road problems in Pretoria, however, sadly the report has to be returned unopened to the sender.

Over at the app’s page on Google Play, however, the overall user score is a mere 2.9 out of 5. The primary complaint is a pretty obvious one which we raised at the launch. People love the idea, but can’t use their phones to report road problems while driving…

We’ll watch out for an update that allows you to log problems without the geotag (so you can do it after the car is stopped).

 

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.