Ir-Raħal Tagħna is a new app which aims to bring people closer to local government, Nikita Kozlov, director of developers Ampere Limited, says.

When local councils were set up in 1993, one of the main aims was to decentralise government and bring it closer to the people. Does the Ir-Raħal Tagħna app further close the gap between government and people?

Yes, it definitely does. The app will help attract more audiences and steer communication with local councils, as it will be available to more categories of residents, including individuals who don’t have time to attend their local councils in person.

What were the main aims for developing the Ir-Raħal Tagħna app?

Our main aim was to make it easier for citizens to report any problem from any spot, without the need to go personally to their respective local council.

At the same time the app will help local councils to decrease queues and receive fresh opinions on planned projects or events with the help of an online survey feature, which will be available right on mobile phones.

Residents will also be immediately notified about any changes in their town’s usual routine, like road works or special events – these alerts will be available to all those who own a smartphone and have installed the Ir-Raħal Tagħna app.

Who was involved in the development of the app and what tools were used?

A whole IT team of Ampere Limited – including designers, project managers and software developers – was involved in the development of the project.

Various tools and languages were also used to create this system, including Java, Objective-C and JS.

We tried to simplify the process of adding a new query by minimising user clicks

How does the app work?

Primarily users have to register with their phone number and verify their number with a pin code received via SMS. Following this, the users are asked to indicate their town or village. In the pilot project, only St Paul’s Bay is available and is therefore set as default.

From the main menu, users can view four sections: my queries, town survey, town news and alerts, and settings.

By clicking on the queries section, users can add a new query or view previous queries and track the status, either in progress, queued or fixed.

We tried to simplify the process of adding a new query by minimising user clicks. For instance, if a user takes a photo, the location is automatically identified.

When the issue is fixed, the status of the query will be changed and the respective local council will upload a photo of a fixed issue – this allows users to see the before and after photos in the app.

The town survey section allows local councils to add voting polls – users can then vote on various subjects, including, for instance, when garbage can be collected. Simply by clicking on the ‘vote’ button, citizens can voice their opinions or concerns.

In the town news and alerts sections, users will receive notifications regarding blocked roads and events happening in town. Users will not need to access the app to see those, as a preview appears on the phone and users will be alerted of a new notification.

The settings functionality will be available at a later stage when other local councils will start using our software.

Does the app ‘talk’ to other software?

The app ‘talks’ to the centralised database and to the local councils’ web backend, where actual communication takes place.

Apart from handling customer complaints, does the Ir-Raħal Tagħna app also afford other forms of engagement between local government and app users?

Yes, it does and includes functions such as poll voting, alerts, and news. We have also implemented a feature through which local councils needing some clarification to the reported complaint, can communicate with each other via the messaging option which will appear after the report has been made.

Will you be launching the app on a pilot project basis?

We are currently launching the project as a pilot in St Paul’s Bay. The Android app is ready to be downloaded from Google Play and the iPhone app will be out in the coming weeks.

How positive are you of achieving buy-in from all 68 local councils?

I am very positive about connecting all of the councils to our system. We are holding talks with numerous local councils at the moment and they seem to be very interested in Ir-Raħal Tagħna. Hopefully, our app will soon cater for all towns and villages in Malta and Gozo.