Often times, I feel all our e-government, smart nation, and whatever other initiatives to take us to the next level of a futuristic city, is all just superficial. I’ve complained previously about how some government online services have “working hours”. (How absurd right?) I could give other examples, but today, my gripe is with the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
I was trying to report a pothole. I got so frustrated with LTA that I thought my time was better spent writing this rant. In this age of smartphones, pervasive mobile Internet connectivity, and some sensible organisations, such as SMRT (yes, I’m shocked), that can receive feedback via WhatsApp, I cannot understand why LTA could not be more technologically up-to-date. I hope LTA can read this and act on this feedback, both about the pothole itself as well as the difficulty reporting the pothole.
To report the pothole, I googled “report pothole to LTA”, and found the first link was to LTA’s Maintaining Our Roads & Facilities. Right at the bottom of the page, there was this message:
If you find any potholes or illegal advertisements, you can report them to 1800-CALL LTA (1800-2255582) or send your message through our Online Feedback. We aim to fix potholes within 24 hours of notification.
Now, don’t ask me why I didn’t just call them. I’ve not called LTA’s hotline before, but my impression about hotlines are frustrating IVR prompts and infuriating wait times. Sometimes I think the purpose of hotlines is to filter away callers, other than those with very serious issues or whom are very persistent, so that the call centre has fewer cases to handle.
I just preferred to submit an online feedback. They did provide the feedback link. I had expected it to be a simple web-based form.
Oh dear, I was so wrong. So very wrong. That the website isn’t mobile-friendly is but just a minor annoyance. No, it was far more wrong than that.
It’s about all the stuff LTA is expecting you to put in the feedback form. Isn’t just name and phone number, and perhaps email address, all that is needed to get in touch with me if they had more questions or simply wanted to update me about my feedback?
No. They needed a salutation. Small matter, never mind there. They needed my name, “Name in NRIC”. So very government style. Oh wait, they wanted my address too? Luckily it was an optional field. But seriously, why? Are they going to send me a snail mail via SingPost to ask me more questions about my feedback?
Again, never mind all that. Moving on. I needed to decide on a feedback category, and a sub-category. I was starting to get really annoyed. I am a well-meaning member of the public, wanting to report a problem I saw on the road. Could they not just figure out all the categories for me? Maybe very broad categories might just work, but do they really need to drill down to sub-categories?
But hey, that’s actually not the point here. You see, the fields are mandatory. It’s mandatory for both category and sub-category fields. These fields, however, did not work on my phone. The fields were supposed to be a drop-down list, but they don’t respond at all when I click on them in my phone. I use Chrome, on a Nexus 6P, so this is about as standard an Android as you can get, not that I was using some archaic smartphone operating system that you couldn’t be faulted for not testing against.
So here’s the thing. LTA directs online reporting about potholes to this feedback form. The form does not work, at least not on my smartphone. People who report potholes are probably on the road, walking, driving, or cycling, or maybe even e-scootering nowadays. Do you think we would be reporting potholes using a desktop computer?
Dear LTA, this pothole is on Bukit Timah Road, at the junction in front of the main entrance to the NUS Bukit Timah campus. Please fix.
Or not. I know where it is now, so it’s not like it really matters to me.