Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a customer-service guru, was riding on a public train in San Francisco, California, recently when something common but annoying occurred: The railcar filled with people and became uncomfortably hot…
This was 2009, the age of mobile technology, so Newmark pulled out his iPhone, snapped a photo of the train car and, using an app called “SeeClickFix,” zapped an on-the-go complaint, complete with GPS coordinates, straight to City Hall.
“A week or so later I got an e-mail back saying, ‘Hey, we know about the problem and we’re going to be taking some measures to address it,’ ” he said.
Welcome to a movement the tech crowd is calling “Gov 2.0” — where mobile technology and GPS apps are helping give citizens like Newmark more of a say in how their local tax money is spent. It’s public service for the digital age.
A host of larger U.S. cities from San Francisco to New York quietly have been releasing treasure troves of public data to Web and mobile application developers.
That may sound dull. But tech 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.
I see a bit of this coming my way. Our county government has an application in for stimulus/broadband money – and has a useful and navigable website designed to aid residents.
True – I don’t have to worry long about potholes since an exec in our highway department lives just down the road and doesn’t want to tweak his Corvette. 🙂 But, immediate access to several departments would aid ordinary citizens to support better service for us all. IMHO.