A government in northwestern China is applying big data to the emotions of its citizens in order to better address their grievances, local media reported Monday.
When residents of Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, call the 24-hour government hotline 12345, staff record whether they seem mild-mannered or more emotional while lodging their complaint. The call center has been collecting this data for over three months, the report said, logging over 90,000 data points.
Of those callers, 81,124 were “mild,” 5,864 were “gloomy,” and 4,885 were “irritated.” Finally, a minority of 541 citizens were so incensed that they were recorded as “out of control.” A supervisor at the call center, Wang Qian, told the state-run media outlet that the high rate of “mild” callers was indicative of residents’ satisfaction with the hotline.
Most cities in China operate 12345 hotlines through which citizens can lodge complaints about their local government. In December 2016, the Standardization Administration of China published a regulation requiring the hotlines to operate 24/7 and their operators to answer calls in less than 15 seconds. It also said at least 95 percent of calls should be answered, though a study earlier this year of 313 such hotlines found this to be the case for only one in five cities. In 58 cities, nobody picked up the phone at all.
Yinchuan’s numbers were further analyzed by area, with most complaints directed toward the Xingqing District government. The same district was also home to the most emotionally distressed callers, who griped about noise, lost items, home demolitions, traffic, and their water supply. Wang said that the district’s less-than-ideal numbers were due to its large population, which has in turn caused more societal problems.
For some irritants, the report further broke down the data. For example, shared bicycles — sources of frustration in many Chinese cities because they take up valuable sidewalk space — were the subject of nearly 800 complaints, but only one caller was so upset about the two-wheelers that they were deemed “out of control.”
The report said that the call center’s researchers had carried out big data analysis on the thousands of complaints so they could pay more attention to those filed by “irritated” or “out of control” citizens. It concluded that this approach could “help the government stop terrible incidents from happening, and effectively relieve citizens’ extreme emotions.”