Sometimes, when identifying a case of failure in city infrastructure, people call the city’s general information number and sometimes they get transferred from one department to another only to give up. Now, mobile technology, real-time data capability, and social features have met to turn this frustrated notifier into an empowered citizen.
CitySourced” is an example of this government 2.0 movement which point is to use technology such as social media and wireless communications to make governments more efficient in delivering services where they’re most needed.
Citysourced quote“CitySourced provides a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report them to city hall for quick resolution. […] The app on your Blackberry, Android or iPhone lets you take a picture of the infraction. The app detects your location via GPS and once the image is loaded and approved, you are brought to the reporting screen. You can then identify what the problem is, add comments, and Tweet the problem out from your Twitter account.”
Most cities already have their own systems for sending reports to different departments but CitySourced has developed software that formats the data properly to work with those systems.
“We provide a system that works with what they already have and charge a subscription fee” he says.
Several cities in the US have developed similar efforts, most of them using the iPhone.
New York City recently launched an iPhone application that enhances its report-problem service
Washington, D.C. residents can report problems via its DC report app (311)
Boston offers an iPhone app called Citizens Connect iPhone-using Pittsburgh residents use iBurgh
San Francisco residents can send direct messages via Twitter to the city of San Francisco, @SF311
Some of these sites are tied into local “reporting problems” systems, other aren’t. Some only e-mail back citizen reports and other are responsible for fixing it. Some of the systems are more transparent as to the disposition of reported issues than others and some are more advanced, technically than others. Some other parents: SeeClickFix or FixMyStreet
One question comes up: Why pay a fee to a private firm for a service a city might develop itself ?
“Cities that have built their own application have been known to spend as much as $80,000 doing it. We can do it for less. Plus, there’s a benefit that comes with having numerous cities share information on a large network. We can detect trends that are affecting lots of cities. We get better with every city that gets added.”
The reports can also be a source of data used for other city services. A surge in graffiti in a neighborhood is often an early indicator of gang activity and can be used to alert police to bolster their patrols.
Smartphones are surely great tools to make cities better places. But are all the cities able to use effectively great tools ?
One unknown is how city service advisories are handled. Does this new service include new jobs or existing-job adaptation ? The second big unknown is how responsive the service can be and how will cities deal with new and fast upcoming feedbacks: more cleaning, more replacing, more work… less incomes ?