New York City, Boston Add Web 2.0 to Customer Relationship Management/Illustration by Tom McKeith New York City, Boston Add Web 2.0 to Customer Relationship Management Illustration by Tom McKeith

Earlier this year, San Francisco announced that citizens could use Twitter to inform the city about municipal service problems, such as graffiti, broken streetlights and potholes. By following San Francisco's SF311 Twitter account, users can submit "tweets" to the city and receive a tracking number that lets them follow the city's progress -- or lack thereof -- in addressing their issues.

The simple act of incorporating Twitter into its customer relationship management (CRM) process adds San Francisco to a growing list of cities using Web 2.0 applications to make the citizen-government relationship a little easier. These applications tend to be easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate, providing benefits to the city and the citizen at minimal or no expense. On the East Coast, New York and Boston aim to join San Francisco by adding their own 2.0 twist to CRM.

Apples for Bean Town

In winter 2008, as snowdrifts lined the streets of Boston, a few staffers at Mayor Thomas Menino's office came up with an idea. The city's CRM service had been receiving a lot of input regarding snow removal, said Nigel Jacob, the mayor's senior adviser for emerging technology. Jacob and his colleagues thought it would be great if Bostonians could let the city know, via their mobile devices, where snow was piling up.

Then, as now, Apple's iPhone was a consumer blockbuster, due largely to its ever-growing list of handy applications -- or apps. To Jacob and his colleagues, the iPhone seemed like the perfect platform to experiment with a mobile CRM/311-type application. There was only one problem. They needed to build the application.

For help, Jacob turned to Connected Bits, a Boston software development company that specializes in mobile software.

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Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.