Every city in Malaysia will soon be using a new app to respond to citizens’ complaints and track the quality of services across agencies.

The app called Cakna lets people submit photos directly to city agencies. Reports get automatically directed to the right city authority, without citizens having to worry about which agency they should go to.

GovInsider caught up with Azhar Rahman, Assistant Secretary of IT, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) to find out how and why it was built.

When was the idea conceived?

The idea to build Cakna was announced by Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bin Dahlan on 30 June 2015. The idea came from the public because one city already had a channel to report any complaints, like road damage, drainage, or traffic light, and take action on them very fast.

Who worked on it?

Cakna has been developed using internal expertise from KPKT’s Information Technology Division. Starting from October, the team did a preliminary study of the system, presenting a concept paper on a mobile application for complaints to the Secretary General of KPKT.

We developed prototypes which we demonstrated to the KPKT Minister. And on 29 October, Cakna was launched.

We launched the app with seven pilot local authorities – Melaka, Alor Gajah, Jasin, Hang Tuah Jaya, Tanjung Malim, Bentong and Johor Bahru.

How does the app work?

There are 3 main modules in Cakna: the mobile app, a dashboard for monitoring complaints, and a portal for information on the app.

On the app, users can select from 10 categories of complaints: damaged roads, plants, traffic lights, advertisement/sign boards, animals, garbage, parking and construction, open burning, toilets and drainage. Users have to enable the GPS function on their phone before they making a complaint.

It is compulsory for users to upload an image of the complaint. The location of the complaint is displayed automatically via the GPS function. The user can move its position on the map to a more appropriate location. They are also required to add a description of the complaint before they can submit it.

Complaints will be sent directly to the relevant local authorities. The responsible city authority is determined automatically based on the local of the complaint.

How does it help government?

Local authorities and KPKT can manage and monitor complaints through the Cakna dashboard. Cities are only allowed to access complaints under their responsibility.

The dashboard lets KPKT monitor the quality of services across cities. For example, it maps the locations of all of the complaints for each local authority.

The dashboard also lets cities assign the complaints to the right agencies so they can take action.

Dashboard map

What challenge did you have to overcome to make this app possible?

There were three key challenges we face: determining the boundaries of local authorities in real time; cellular coverage network; and false complaints.

After the public sends the complaint, the app automatically sends it to the local authorities based on the location. We need to get accurate geospatial data to make sure the complaint is sent to the right local authorities. That’s why determining the boundaries of city authorities is very challenging for us to make this successful.

Second is that users need at least 3.5G mobile network to use this app, and not all locations have cellular coverage above 3.5G.

Third, we get false complaints from the public. We have complaint managers who look at each picture and check manually whether the photo is real and has the correct category.

What was the easiest and quickest part of the project?

Getting the app on Google Play Store was the quickest part. We needed just half an hour to register on the Google Play Store, while the Apple App Store needed two weeks.

How do you plan to adapt it based on feedback?

So far the feedback from public has overwhelming because of the response times. They get notifications on the status of the complaint in real time, and on average it takes 7 to 14 days for agencies to act on a complaint.

Today we have reached 706 complaints on the app since its launch in October. We are now trying to compare how the performance before and after the roll out of this app.

Going forward, we will expand the app to all 152 local authorities in the country. The expansion is targeted for March 2016.

We will continuously improve Cakna according to the needs of stakeholders and technology, including strengthening its security. We will review requirements to integrate Cakna with the current complaints systems used by local authorities.

What other schemes have you found inspiring?

There are three other apps we found inspiring: #betterPenang , Aduan MPSJ and Aduan Jalan KKR.

We found that these apps have the same concept as the one our ministry wants to develop. But when it came to costing, we found that all of them were outsourced to build. So we were challenged to make this app at a lower cost by building it in-house.