An editorial by Rachel Stevens in Data Smart Solutions highlighted the long-term challenges of service administrators have faced in connecting citizens with the services they need, and how technology is proving a valuable resource in breaking down the barriers between services and clients.
Many cities and counties across the US have gathered their service directories into online referral systems to connect clients quickly and easily to the right services, saving time and energy spent by social workers and service administrators.
A famous website in recent years is Aunt Bertha, born of a developer’s will to help others find the kinds of services he had difficulty tracking down when his mother got sick.
The site is a centrally-managed referral system based on people’s zip code, the types of assistance or the name of a particular product that a client is looking for. All information on services and programs provided by federal, state, city, neighborhood and nonprofit programs will appear in location-based search results.
Aunt Bertha is available all over the US, but its in-depth coverage is currently focused in the state of Texas (where it was founded), Richmond, Virginia, and, as of August 2015, New York City. So far around 100,000 people have used Aunt Bertha to connect with programs and services ranging from food stamps to employment services to health care, and that number promises to grow as Aunt Bertha expands.
Aunt Bertha demonstrates the huge impact that websites and apps can have on reducing the separation between services and citizens.