This story is part of a series about the 2019 Engaged Cities Award finalist cities and how they partnered with residents to transform their communities. Learn more about the award here.
Until recently, residents who needed to see a specialist at Kennedy Hospital in Bogotá, Colombia, had to wait for hours just to get an appointment. It wasn’t unusual for people to arrive at two or three in the morning to get in line.
All that changed recently after the city received feedback through its new system, Bogotá te Escucha.
“If you need to complain, ask questions, there is an easy way to do that. It’s not about politics. I am from Bogotá. I love it.”
The city re-engineered its system for receiving complaints and requests, creating a new online dashboard and app where residents can submit and track data, and city staff can better analyze and respond to complaints.
Martha Quintero used to work at Kennedy Hospital as a nurse. “You could wait the whole morning and afternoon and never get the appointment,” she said, remembering the long lines in the street. “The workers were tired. Now there is an online channel to make appointments.”
She has also used the dashboard herself. A lamppost in her neighborhood wasn’t working. She sent a letter to the electricity company, which gave her a code to track her request.
Residents use the app for a variety of purposes. Geomacle Torres uses it to submit paperwork for properties she manages as part of her job. Processing paperwork with the city used to be time-consuming and painful, but that has changed dramatically. “The language is very friendly. It’s very easy to manage,” she said.
The new system has resulted in more than shorter lines and saved time. It’s also changed how residents feel about the city.
“You feel the city staff are hearing you and they value your time,” said Angela Pedrasa, who learned about the new service through Twitter. “Now I want to participate more and more.”
The city did extensive testing with focus groups and through dialogue with residents to ensure the system met the needs of the community and was easy to use for residents and city staff.
Requests can come to the city in almost any shape or form, including emails and official petitions submitted through the website. There is even a portal designed for children to participate. Claudia Catilla’s daughter had her whole class submit letters asking the city to care for its trees and environment. Everyone who submits something to the city is now part of the process to ensure that city staff tracks and responds to each request in some way.
“You could wait the whole morning and afternoon and never get the appointment. Now there is an online channel.”
“All the channels are open,” said Catilla. “If you need to complain, ask questions, there is an easy way to do that. It’s not about politics. I am from Bogotá. I love it.”
For Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, the system represents an important step toward a better life for residents. “Citizens need to know that the government knows they have a problem and that we are trying to solve it,” he said. “What we have done here is to help the citizens feel that they are listened to.”