Miami residents still must dial 311 to report non-emergency problems like potholes, missed trash pickup or broken streetlights. But now they -- and Miami city employees -- can go online, view "problem areas" and track their requests.

Launched in early March, Miami 311 pulls data from the telephone-based system and displays it on an online map. Residents can view an average of 4,500 issues in progress on the map instead of a list and filter searches based on type of request, date, district and status, according to Stuart McKee, Microsoft national technology officer. Using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, Bing mapping and Silverlight, Miami 311 was created by two people over an eight-day-period, with no up-front costs, according to a city press release.

"A simple click on the map allows them to easily drill down to more and more specific details if they want," McKee wrote on Port 25, a Microsoft blog. "In short, they have turned what used to be represented by a meaningless list of data into useful information, and created actionable and consumable knowledge that is relevant to the citizens of Miami."

It's also a proactive tool for managers, as they can easily ensure their employees are responding appropriately to the 311 calls.

Miami officials chose the Microsoft Azure cloud platform -- which provides virtually unlimited storage and processing power -- out of fiscal necessity, said James Osteen, Miami's assistant IT director. After the IT department's budget was slashed by 18 percent and 22 of its 102 full-time employees were lost during the last budget cycle, "we started questioning everything," Osteen said.

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Karen Wilkinson  | 

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.