If you want something done, there’s probably an app for it. Just look at the Google Play Store or the Apple Store and you’ll see what we’re talking about. But one area that apps don’t seem to have been developed is with local municipal councils. This is what the UCEMB app aims to change. Developed [...]


Exploring the features in the Embilipitiya Urban Council’s Waste Management App


If you want something done, there’s probably an app for it. Just look at the Google Play Store or the Apple Store and you’ll see what we’re talking about. But one area that apps don’t seem to have been developed is with local municipal councils. This is what the UCEMB app aims to change.
Developed by Ideal Six (Pvt) Ltd, the UCEMB app is essentially a waste management app for the Urban Council of Embilipitiya. Curious to see what features the app would have, we decided to take it for a spin. The app is currently available for Android. iOS availability remains to be seen.

Setting up UCEMB
The app is fairly straightforward to use. There’s no logins or registrations required. As soon as you open the app, you’re greeted with the main menu. The menu has 6 areas. These are waste management, hire taxi. Feedback/complaints. Chat room. Find job and site marker.

Managing Waste with UCEMB
Using the app for its primary purpose, the UCEMB app allows users to view both garbage trucks and trash markers as well. For garbage trucks, you are able to view the location of the truck along with what type of waste they accept. Clicking each truck allows you to view a contact number and also gives you the ability to navigate to the truck from your current location. While it is a bit too far for those in Colombo, for those in Embilipitiya, it is a useful feature, especially if you’re new to the area.

Trash markers are placed with their latitude and longitude as well as turn by turn directions on how to get to them. You can also add or remove markers as required as well. A similar function is seen with the site marker as well. We assume this is to show places of interest via the app so that people can find them easily.


Other features of the UCEMB app
Despite being aimed as a waste management app, the UCEMB app also has a number of other features. One such feature is to hire taxis. Now, this won’t really work for Colombo because the driver isn’t likely to drive all the way from Embilipitiya to pick you up. It’s more likely to be used with tuk drivers in the area when services such as PickMe or UberTuk aren’t available.

Clicking on a Tuk shows you the driver’s name, contact number and plate number. There’s no functionality to book a tuk. As such, we assume that you will have to call them in order to hire them. Or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can navigate to where they are to find them and hire them (which is rather redundant).

Another feature we found interesting in the UCEMB app was the chat room. This essentially serves as a medium for citizens to post suggestions and complaints about things that need to be attended to. Rather than posting via a forum, you can just type whatever you want. This in turn can build a fair amount of spam messages. Quite annoying if there’s a pressing matter that needs to be addressed and everyone is just typing gibberish. There’s also a feedback and complaints section where you can submit, well, feedback and complaints. The format is straightforward.

You enter your name, phone number and the problem or suggestion you have. For added clarity, you can also add an image as well. This could be used anywhere from reporting possible trash/garbage problems or even highlighting issues in the UCEMB app as well.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start
The UCEMB app is far from perfect. The first thing we noticed was that the UI could use a bit of work. The “Hire Taxi” icon, for example stands out in terms of design and is a bit of an eyesore.
The chatroom too could use a few filters such as the ability to be notified if someone replies to your message and also the ability to filter out messages. The latter would most probably have to be done by the developers themselves. It would essentially mean that they would have to constantly monitor messages and see what’s happening.

Others can take an example as well
Probably a question that is on your mind is, why doesn’t Colombo have an app like this? Well, that indeed is a good question. If you recall, in 2018, we spoke about the e-LG or e-Local Government and its flaws. From finding out that we first needed to find a working municipal council, to confusing terms and an overall badly designed UI, the experience left much to be desired.

At the same time, we also spoke about the digital health project and found it to be a lot smoother in terms of operation (pun intended). So why, then aren’t we seeing apps like this in other provinces as well? While there are developers who are ready and willing to work on projects such as UCEMB, access to data might not be so freely available. Its not like you can just walk into your municipal council and say you want to develop an app. There will be certain legal and other processes that would need to be adhered to. With the efficiency of government offices, its understandable that developers may be demotivated to see the development through.

The governing bodies themselves could take an initiative and talk with app development teams as well. This could be done via a tender where they call for software developers to work together to develop the app. Hackathons, despite being a bone of content can also be utilized to provide a gamified approach to develop apps such as UCEMB.
If you are a resident of Embilipitiya, do try out the app and tell us what you think about it at mirrormagazine@gmail.com.
If you think you can develop one for your own town or province, then we definitely encourage you to go ahead and do so.

Social Hackathons are a good way to raise awareness about developing apps such as UCEMB (Image Credits: UNDP


(The author is senior tech writer for ReadMe a leading tech news provider.
For more information log onto readme.lk)

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