Want to Report Graffiti? Potholes? Illegal Dumping? There's an App for That
With the rapidly growing adoption of GPS- and email-enabled, camera-equipped smartphones like the iPhone and Blackberry, interaction between everyday citizens and local government is trending toward mobile and real-time.
The City of Toronto recent launched the 311 Toronto service, an online and phone-in call center that aims to allow for more efficient and trackable question-answer interactions related to city services. And they accept email submissions and queries, including (but not limited to) reporting of potholes, vandalism, and health and safety concerns.
Now, thanks to a Seattle-based company called Urban Anomaly, there's a way to very quickly and easily submit these types reports to 311 Toronto, from the iPhone.
"It seemed like a no-brainer to create [311 Universal] because the iPhone has a camera, a GPS chip, and an email client," explains Steve Barham of Urban Anomaly.
The idea is simple and straightforward. Citizens equipped with an iPhone and the app can be out and about in the city, and when they observe something worth reporting or asking questions about, they can take a photo and shoot off in a preformatted email to 311 Toronto, with GPS coordinates automatically appended.
Although the app just had its soft launch, pilot testing has proven it effective already in Seattle. Barham believes that "if there could be a small group of people armed with this app in every neighborhood, it could really make a difference." He adds that because it's just being released, he hasn't gotten a lot of feedback yet. Perhaps this is where we might be able to help.
Although it's priced at the lowest tier possible (downloading the app will cost users a one-time $0.99 fee), I do think that civic-minded techies will find the convenience it affords worth the tiny (less-then-a-cup-of-coffee) expense.
I've just used the app to submit the following question to 311 Toronto:
Does 311 Toronto have plans for a mobile query/report submission application (eg. iPhone)?
(Watch this space for a follow up, if/when my question is answered.)
For the iPhone users out there, here's the direct link to 311 Universal in the iTunes Store.
In other local iPhone app news, check out Torontoist's post about the Eaton Centre shopping app.
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