Dormagen: enhancing civic e-participation with satnav

The City

Dormagen is a German town of about 60 000 inhabitants living in the 16 districts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Municipality of Dormagen is responsible for ensuring the quality of the urban environment and of the public infrastructure (roads, bus stops etc).

The Challenge

Until recently, the inhabitants of Dormagen could report malfunctioning of public facilities, tagging, illegal garbage dumping, potholes, and other incivilities and degradations by email or telephone only. Information on which administration department to report to was often difficult to find, and citizens would be discouraged from reporting. Sending the administration’s staff to survey the public space was time-and resource-consuming.

The Satellite Solution

In order to improve the flow of information from citizens to the city administrations, since 2011 the Municipality offers, in collaboration with the internet communications firm Wer Denkt Was GmbH (,  an internet- and smart phone-based complaint management system enabling  citizens to report incivilities and malfunctioning public equipment to the local administration ( The idea is to outsource the defect sensing and reporting to the citizens themselves.

Dormagen’s inhabitants have been provided with a smart phone application that allows them to report urban defects, take pictures on the spot and indicate their precise location thanks to the GPS inbuilt in their smartphones. The location of the defect can be exactly identified and tracked as a marker on a virtual map. The web application allows the administration to process and delegate reports. Defects are then coloured in red, yellow or green on the virtual map, according to their processing state.

The Result

Thanks to the smartphone application, citizens can report urban defects wherever they are and whenever they want, directly to the public authorities in charge, without searching for contact details or other information. The use of this satnav-based application enables the administration to work more efficiently, save time and money, and it empowers citizens as actors in protecting the urban environment.

“The application creates an immediate link between citizens and public administration when managing urban defects.”  Wolfgand Zimmer, City of Dormagen