MINIMIZING THE TIME TO PREPARE FOR THE POLITICAL DEBATE
City councilors are busy people. They combine their work for the council with regular jobs and therefore are focused on using their time as efficiently as possible. At the same time they want to enter the political arena as well prepared as possible.
In a continuous effort to improve their service, Erwin and his colleagues decided to investigate and test how the retrieval of municipal information could be facilitated. They commissioned a prototype search engine that would allow city councilors to access multiple council sources via one portal. They wanted to develop this prototype in an agile fashion to be able to adjust the project along the way and selected Spinque to help them realise it. A team was formed consisting of information and UX specialists of the municipality and search designers of Spinque.
After three months the design process was completed and the prototype was delivered. As required it allows city councilors to search in multiple council sources, but on top of that it supports them in satisfying certain specific information needs that were identified during the design process. For this the team created a knowledge graph with the concepts and entities in the municipal domain that are relevant for the city councillors.
The knowledge graph enables fine-grained information access. For example city councilors want to confront fellow councilors and alderpersons with statements they previously made. These statements are contained in minutes of meetings and can be searched and found as such. This is time-consuming however. Spinque extracted the statements from the minutes and added them as separate entities to the knowledge graph of the municipality. City councilors can now directly search for statements about particular topics and uttered by particular persons from specific parties. This way relevant statements can be found easier and quicker.
After the prototype phase the team deployed the search engine into production. During this process information specialists of the municipality were trained as search designers. In the future they will adjust the search engine themselves and possibly design search solutions for other information needs within the municipality.
Spinque puts Erwin and his team in charge of their search and enables city councilors to find relevant information easily and quickly.
The team collaborated very closely and produced a new version of the prototype every other week.
BEHIND THE SCREENS
During the design process we created a knowledge graph of the municipal domain. Central in this domain are the different types of 'instruments' available to city councilors to perform their duties: memos, questions, motions, letters, amendments and proposals. Another important concept are the activities in which these instruments are produced and used, for example meetings in which proposals are discussed and voted on.
The municipal information systems already contained several types of instruments and activities. During observation studies with users we learned that users often need to find proposals. This instrument was not explicitly defined in the information system and therefore difficult to find. The users also indicated that they wanted to know who-said-what in municipal meetings and what commitments were made by alderpersons. To enable search on these types of entities we extracted them from the text documents and explicitly modeled them in the knowledge graph.
We implemented three search entry points to effectively support the different types of information needs that were identified during the design process:
- finding instruments ('Raadsstukken');
- finding out who-said-what ('Wie zei wat') and
- finding commitments made by alderpersons ('Toezeggingen').
You can search for yourself at ureka.utrecht.nl.
In Spinque Desk we implemented strategies for all three search entry points. The strategy to find a relevant instrument is most notable. Instruments are related to multiple text documents. For example a proposal will hold a specific proposal document. Of course the search strategy uses the full text of these documents to find instruments. Activities in which instruments are discussed may include additional documents. For example an elaboration of the proposal or the results of a related investigation. To improve findability, the search strategy also considers these related documents to find instruments.
WHAT WE CAN DO FOR YOU
In this project a search engine tailored to the specific needs of city counsilors was developed in close collaboration with domain experts from the municipality. In a series of sprints various information needs were identified and supported. During this process Spinque Desk was used to design various evolving search strategies.
What information needs do your users have and how might a tailored search solution help them? Let us know, we are happy to think along!