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In Russian Republic, An Online Effort To Tackle Public Grievances

A makeshift dumping ground near the village of Maltsevo in Tatarstan in a photo that accompanied a complaint on the "People's Control" website.
Organizers of a new e-government project in Russia's republic of Tatarstan to act on public complaints are trumpeting their "People's Control" website, which puts republican authorities on the trail of poorly performing local officials.

It's a little bit like the Kremlin's nationwide Internet initiative, called "Russia Without Fools," that seeks to provide a forum for public dissatisfaction.

Except that in Tatarstan, authorities have boosted two key aspects of their project -- the follow-through and transparency -- in an effort to actually resolve problems rather than simply let people talk about them.

It's all part of the digitally inspired responsiveness that shot Tatarstan's former deputy prime minister and information and communications minister, Nikolai Nikiforov, to notoriety, landing him the post of minister of communications and mass media in Vladimir Putin's newly formed government.

"People's Control" requires users to provide their phone number and pledges that republican authorities will have verified the problem and contacted their local counterparts before posting the complaint within 24 hours. An official complaint is filed within 10 days to the relevant local institution, which is obliged to get back to complainants within 30 days with a timeline for when the problem will be remedied. Anyone can track the progress on any problem on a related timeline.

"Officials are horrified," Kristina Talanova, the republican administration's e-service project manager, tells RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service. "Now they have no excuse to leave the problems unsolved. Republican and local officials face difficult times. We feel their reluctance to deal with concrete problems and their resistance to our service every day."
A public complaint on conditions in the village of Urmanay.
A public complaint on conditions in the village of Urmanay.

She credits republican President Rustem Minnikhanov with offering the full-fledged support that gives the project its teeth.

The site has documented 630 complaints in the month since it was launched. Typical contributions include photos of makeshift dumping grounds, perpetually flooded spaces, potholed roads, and even illegally parked cars.

Skeptics might note that the site is moderated, potentially allowing for officials to vet complaints. But Talanova says not a single grievance has been submitted that hasn't been published.

-- Nail Khisamiev

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