With the emergence of the COVID-19 epidemic at the national level and the introduction of curfews, local governments have become responsible for caring for those at high risk and their socially deprived residents. With the help of Cheppers, the Budapest 15th District Municipality has already taken steps towards the digital switchover in the past, but in response to the emergency, we launched a new development.
Budapest 15th District Municipality has set a dual goal to address the problem most effectively. A service had to be launched through which residents in difficult situations living in the district could easily ask for help from the Municipality, and the staff of the office could also follow the inquiries received through various channels (eg telephone, e-mail).
The problems of people in difficult situations due to the epidemic had to be responded to extremely quickly, so time constraints were one of the main challenges of the project. In addition, in a changed work environment due to working from home, effective collaboration without face-to-face meetings and working remotely also proved to be a new kind of competition.
The mobile app is available and can be installed on Apple iPhones from the App Store and on Android devices from the Google Play Store. In the epidemiological situation, both companies have introduced severe restrictions to prevent abuse. This required significant administration and communication, and of course the application was also examined much more rigorously than usual.
Together with the planning, the first phase of the development was completed in two weeks, and it allowed submitting requests for help quickly and easily, also it allowed to store such requests at the database level, and to monitor them.
With the help of a website (microsite) and a mobile application, residents of the district can easily access information and ask for help for themselves or others. The two interfaces work with a common backend, where all information can be managed in a central administration system. Announcements received through other channels (telephone, e-mail, etc.) can be manually recorded on the interface provided to the employees of the municipality. You can assign statuses to each report so that you can be sure that all issues have been addressed.
Because we knew that further improvements were expected after the release of the first version - where the complexity of both content and user management would increase - we chose Drupal for the backend system. With the so-called headless Drupal solution you can quickly and securely build API endpoints for web and mobile applications. Because the software handles personal information, the system must comply with strict legal requirements for data management from the moment zero, and it is important that the data is secure. The Drupal framework is used by large companies and public and government actors around the world. Data security is taken care of by the Drupal Security Team - in a way that is unique in the open source community - so this was also a strong consideration for us.
The web and mobile application is built with React.JS and React Native technologies. With React Native, we avoided having to develop the app for iPhone and Android platforms at the same time, saving a lot of time.
Immediately after the publication of the first version of the application, there was a huge amount of interest and dozens of inquiries were received through the two platforms.
In order to get more users, the Municipality has started a strong marketing activity, so that the residents of the district can find out about the online help and help on the billboards as well as in the animated video presenting the application.
Further steps and future opportunities
As the epidemiological situation progressed, the local government came forward with additional needs. People in a difficult situation due to the epidemic were primarily interested in social assistance and subsidies. Although the information can be found in detail on the Office's website, the forms cannot be submitted electronically. We are currently preparing the system for this.
In addition, we pay attention to the additional needs that arise during use and in the epidemiological situation, and we improve the solution during continuous improvement.
Following the epidemiological situation, the application can be transformed into a general municipal application and a solution supporting electronic administration.
Redesigning a product website after years of stable performance is always both a great challenge, and great opportunity.