Mobile Future

City Governments Go Mobile

Ever see a pothole or a tree that’s fallen in the road and think, “Someone ought to fix that”?

Well, if you’re in Washington, DC, you’re in luck.  All you need to do is snap a photo with your PDA and using the city’s DC 311 mobile app, pair it with a GPS location.  You then upload it into a local government database.  This also works for graffiti, broken parking meters and any other public nuisance.

Other cities from New York to San Francisco have also moved to harness the power of mobile consumers.  The practical result, as CNN reports is that:

[T]ech geeks transform banal local government spreadsheets about train schedules, complaint systems, potholes, street lamp repairs and city garbage into useful applications for mobile phones and the Web. The aim is to let citizens report problems to their governments more easily and accurately; and to put public information, which otherwise may be buried in file cabinets and Excel files, at the fingertips of taxpayers.

San Francisco and other cities are trying to develop a national standard for municipal government data. That way, a mobile app that tracks, say, bus service in San Francisco could also be used in any other city.  That could enable cities that cannot afford to develop their own mobile apps to benefit.