Technology Facilitates Civic Responsibility

Posted on February 2, 2010


I was pleasantly surprised to see the following article above the fold in the Boston Globe today. Send Photo, Get Action describes how residents use an iPhone application to photograph potholes, graffiti, violations of city ordinances and other street-level neighborhood problems. Citizen Connect has a GPS feature that maps the problem and alerts the appropriate city department. According to the article, complaints received via the application are given no more priority than complaints received by phone.

Citizen Sourcing is a term used to define enlisting visitors and residents to report on the physical condition of the city. An interesting paper about citizen sourcing can be read here.

Not everyone has an iPhone, but there is another new technology worth investigating. 311 is a customer service phone technology that enables citizens to contact city hall departments by simply dialing 311. New York City has it, and so does Somerville, MA. While implementing 311 can cost millions of dollars, Somerville was able to do it for $50,000.

Somerville used to have a similar reputation as Lynn. I remember going to Davis Square in the late 70s for the Somerville theatre and Johnny D’s and not seeing many signs of life elsewhere. The square seemed abandonded. In 2009 Somerville was recognized as an “All American City.” Of course, having two strong mayors in a row didn’t hurt.

Posted in: local government