It turns out there's an app for just about everything – even municipal complaints.
Soon the City of Boston will adopt the first iPhone app in the nation that will allow residents to voice municipal complaints and concerns via iPhone. Rather than calling a 24-hour hotline, Bostonians will be able to snap photos of potholes or graffiti in their neighborhood and send it directly to Boston's City Hall. The app, Citizen Connect, which was dreamed up by mayoral aid Nigel Jacob, will use the iPhone's global positioning system function (GPS) to identify a citizen's exact location when they submit a complaint. It can be downloaded for free once it's released in the iTunes App Store, and will also provide users with a tracking number so they can keep tabs on their complaint's status.
Across the US, municipalities have begun using new types of technology to facilitate communication between city officials and the public. Police departments have utilized Twitter to announce crime updates, and some fire and police departments are now offering 911 texting in certain areas of the country.
Boston Globe reporter Michael Levenson reports that "the iPhone initiative is part of a push to make City Hall younger, hipper, and generally more user-friendly, a campaign that Menino has intensified during the mayor's race."
The city is ramping up its efforts and dishing out $25,000 to Connected Bits, the New Hampshire software company that created the app, to provide technical support. After the app launches, the city will assess its overall success to determine its future.
The app promises to give residents access to City Hall at their fingertips. But Joseph A. Curtatone, the Mayor of nearby Somerville, Mass., has some doubts about the app's longterm success. "Boston has never built up the constituent service infrastructure to deliver the timely coordination, tracking, responsiveness and accountability needed to support this technology," he said. Plus, the app "won't work unless you have an iPhone," he points out, leaving all the Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers behind.
Al Sacco of CIO says he's "not sure the application will get much attention after its initial release, because it's not really the young, chic, iPhone toting Bostonians who frequently take the time to file formal complaints.... It's the older Boston residents who actually live there filing the complaints."
If anything, maybe the Citizen Connect app could help prevent such public fiascoes as Boston's 2007 bomb scare, when a few harmless battery-powered LED signs advertising a movie led to a call to the bomb squad.
If your city offered an iPhone app to voice your municipal complaints, would you use it? Leave a comment below – or tell us on Twitter.