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Pioneering Irish website FixMyArea.com outdoes local authorities and shows power of social activism

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Here's a fantastic piece of social entrepreneurship that people need to hear more about.

FixMyArea.com lets Irish users report their neighborhood's problems (potholes, graffiti, etc) to local authorities, who then take action to fix what's been reported.

The interface is excellent, the site well populated, and minor nuisances, such as this South Dublin faulty manhole cover, seem to be getting fixed with very untypical speed,  but here's the amazing part: it's run by what effectively seems to be a group of volunteers.

FixMyArea.com looks, superficially, like the work of a very dynamic local government agency, but this being Ireland (where potholes generally takes months, not days, to be filled) that impression is unsurprisingly smashed when the FAQ page reveals that the website is in fact the brainchild of the people behind RateMyArea.com, a growing (and predominantly Irish) geography rating website, where users can rate amenities such as restaurants, and nightlife, in their areas.

What excites me about FixMyArea.com is the seeming total lack of a profit motive behind the idea (websites having to be hosted, the operation - unless subsidized - probably runs as an expense); local authorities apparent total lack of involvement in coming up with the proposition, but willingness to work with it to fix the problems it identifies, and the ease with which the idea could be transplanted to other geographies, such as, say, America, but equally as possibly, the world.

I'm clearly not alone in being a little wonder-struck by the ingenuity of this great new system: the service has already launched on both the Android and iPhone platforms as a phone application, while the system has now collated over 10,000 reports from users, ranging pretty much the full spectrum of what can go wrong, and unsightly, in a neighborhood, such as graffiti daubings, pothole problems, climbing frame issues, etc.

Its interface is fantastic and shows a full incident breakdown, ranging from when the incident was reported to the website, when it was verified, when the nearest local authority was alerted of the problem, and when (if yet) it was fixed.

While Fix-My-Area aren't the first people with the idea (FixMyStreet.com is another well-known website with an almost identical concept), they do deserve a special word of mention for being very obviously targeted towards Ireland, which adds a local touch to the experience.

I also love how they're in effect assuming the mantle of what was previously to be a Government run effort with a promised 48 hour response time: FixYourStreet.ie seemed set to be the darling of the next Government web design awards for all of a few months, until after having made a celebrated and feted launch quietly sank into relative obscurity, before now (for all appearances) having faded off the internet entirely.

Even if it's not the very first kid on the block to do this, FixMyArea.com proves an important point for me: Besides the 'power of the Internet' lesson that's a bit trite and beyond utterance at this stage, that Ireland has bundles of tech-savvy entrepreneurial-minded people like the founders of Fix-My-Area, who, with a bit of community altruism thrown in there for good measure, can craft fantastic solutions to truly annoying problems such as potholes.

The folding of the obviously untenable '48 hour response time' website is unsurprising, and Ireland's government has shown itself, once again, to be woefully incapable of dealing with the scourge of mass youth emigration, even as - for the second time in many citizens' lifetimes - hundreds of thousands of young people are effectively forced to flock the island's shores.

College fees, principally in the form of raised student contribution charges, continue on a steady climb skyward, leading many to believe that cash-strapped families simply won't be able to afford to send their children to third level education in a matter of years.

The panoply of social problems facing Ireland such as these seems to continue to mount by the day, but we can come up with a more creative and empowering response than blaming everything on the obviously cash-strapped and overstretched government.

Instead we need more people like these, the creators of FixMyArea, to rise up and use their ingenuity to show both the Government and the country that the power to fix social problems that were once written off as intractable is closer at hand than we'd thought. It's often within the citizen, particularly the bright and highly-educated one, both of which Ireland has in strong supply.

And if that holds logic can prove true for fixing graffiti and potholes, it can be used for solving other problems too.

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