The Love Lewisham iPhone App

Rachel: Uh, thank you Phoebe. Umm, well, what struck me most when reading Jane Eyre was uh, how the book was so ahead of its time.
The Teacher: If you're talking about feminism, I think you're right.
Rachel: Yeah, well, feminism yes, but also the robots.

Lewisham Council's Love Lewisham project is occasionally spoken about in hushed tones amongst social media agencies. A pioneering example of how the public sector can use new, mass market technologies to improve delivery of public service delivery, we've seen it crop up more than once as a case study in presentations.

The concept was very clever: Take advantage of the proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones amongst residents to make it easier to report flytipping, tagging and other nastiness that we all see in the course of our daily lives. However, as an idea, it suffered from being a little ahead of its time. While the majority of people probably carry a camera of some form with us during the course of our daily lives, for many people, taking the picture was only half the battle. There still remained the need to download the photo to your computer and upload it to the website. And of course, you had to remember to do this once you got home from your walk.

Launched in 2004, Love Lewisham initially supported a Windows Mobile app that was designed to make it possible to carry out the whole process while you were still out and about. That technology was used for years by Council employees but it's only in the last year or two that apps have gone sufficiently mainstream that the processing power of the general public can be harnessed. Although smart phones are still a niche product, technology has finally caught up with the Love Lewisham promise.

The iPhone app, launched recently, is fantastically simple to use. Downloadable from the iTunes store, with one touch of a button you can launch a service that automatically asigns the photo you take to be sent to the Love Lewisham website. It also identifies the phone's location at the time you took the photo and provides you with a very simple screen, to fill out the other details it needs - select from a scrolling menu what kind of problem you're reporting, type in any other salient details and with one more button-push, you're done. The whole process should take less than a minute.

Sod's law dictates that we haven't actually seen anything that needed reporting since we downloaded it. The icy streets mean that we (and seemingly the flytippers) have been out and about less recently, so we can't yet answer the critically important question of how well the Council deals with the problem once you've reported it.

However, as a tool, which makes it easier for us to help the Council help us, it is absolutely brilliant. Free to download, it should be a must for any local iPhone owner.