Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What type of rubbish service should we expect from government?

A couple of weeks ago I had one of the most traumatic experiences a citizen can have with government, the type that can shake one's faith with the system to the core...

My garbage wasn't collected on schedule.

Just like any other week I put out my garbage and recycling bins on Wednesday night.

On Thursday morning, when going out to collect my bins, I found to my horror that while my recycling had been collected, my garbage bin, alone of all the bins on the street, remained full of rubbish.

Naturally I did what any other 21st century citizen would do - I completed the form on the Canberra Connect website for reporting incidents and making complaints.

The website emailed me a nice little receipt:
Your correspondence has been received by the ACT Government and referred to the relevant business unit for action and/or response.

Your reference number is: #xxxxxx-xxxxxx

You should expect a response within 10 working days.

A response to a simple, and fairly standard, online request within ten working days...

Being the optimistic type, I left my bin out in the hope that the garbage collectors would be notified and return for it over the next few days.

Six days later, on the following Wednesday (garbage night again) I received the following email reply:

Dear Craig,

I am so sorry about the delay.

When you bin has not been collected please call Cleanaway on 62601547 and they will arrange a collection ASAP.

I hope this helps.

The email was almost totally useless in resolving the present issue. My garbage was meant to be out that night anyway, and was collected as normal the following morning.

Is this the type of rubbish response we should expect from government?

Promising a response to an online form within ten days. Responding in six days. Certainly the ACT government significantly exceeded their performance requirement!

However best practice for email responses is closer to two hours than ten days. Even this is very slow compared to the response timeframe normally allowed for telephone calls.

Realistically shouldn't government agencies be aiming for timeframes significantly better than ten days for emails and online forms?

Shouldn't they use the benefits of digital automation to build databases of standard responses to common questions, which would allow new questions to be analysed and responded to with little or no human intervention?

It does make me wonder. Can government agencies expect to successfully introduce advanced Government 2.0 practices - featuring extensive and robust real-time and near-real time interactions with citizens - when they've not yet mastered the art of responding to email or online forms in reasonable timeframes?


  1. With a turn around time like that the ACT Govt should be providing consultancy services to the Telecommunications Industry, they could make a packet by showing them how to improve to a six day turnaround..... but seriously I am not surprised and no they are not ready for real-time/near-time that would require 21st century thinking and responses from an early 20th century mindset

  2. The ACT Gov is one of the most ridiculous governments in Australia. They don't really want to hear what the community is saying and by having comments like this one (You should expect a response within 10 working days)then it shows how much they really care about their so called Open Gov and engagement.