PR launches 311 information service
First reported by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS (CB Sept. 22, 2011), the initiative has two big goals: expanding the ways the government can provide information and services to citizens, and cutting down on the amount of non-emergency calls that the 911 emergency service receives, which today accounts for 75% of the total calls received by the 911 system. It is called “Tu Linea de servicios de gobierno,” or “Your Line for Government Services.”
“The 311 system will allow citizens to receive information about any service offered by the government, as well as initiate a request for service with the corresponding government personnel,” La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Miguel Romero said, adding that citizens can also lodge official complaints and check the status of current requests for services. The official 311 operators will also be able to send documents via email or fax to citizens.
In cutting down on non-emergency calls to the 911 emergency line, the initiative could “literally save someone’s life in some cases,” Police Superintendent Héctor Pesquera added. Now, 911 operators will be able to instantly transfer non-emergency calls to the 311 system, which will have 72 bilingual operators.
The service is starting with 14 agencies, and will operate Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., said Manuel González Azcuy, the 911 emergency system director who will also be in charge of the 311 service. It required a $2 million investment and operational costs will be shared by the 14 agencies.
The 311 call system is the latest push by the Fortuño administration to cut costs and improve services through increased automation of government services. It has already placed more than 100 services online for citizens to access directly through the pr.gov website. The new service is aimed at the substantial amount of the population that is still not computer savvy.
Officials visited New York City, Miami and Panama to study existing systems and “learn from the mistakes of others.” The planning process, which took a year, also included detailed studies on the services offered by government agencies. Officials said the tough work was establishing the right coordination between agencies behind the scenes so that when citizens call 311, their requests for information or services goes smoothly.
The initial agencies participating are the Child Support Administration, the Family Department’s Socioeconomic Development Administration, the Department of Public Works & Transportation (including its Driver Service Directory, the Maritime Transport Authority and the Metropolitan Bus Authority), the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources, the Department of Sports & Recreation, the Solid Waste Authority, the Environmental Quality Board and the National Parks Company.
González Azcuy said that the next wave of agencies to enter the system, which should occur in about a year, will likely include the Health Services Administration, the Labor Department the Department of Economic Development & Commerce, the Family Department, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Housing Department and the Treasury Department.
Eventually, citizens will be able to access any service offered by the government over the 311 line.