Category  6

Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, Parks and Agriculture

Riverside, Calif.   

Judges approached this category looking for green IT and green building projects, but they also expressed a general interest in applications that were simply innovative. They highlighted a project from the Riverside, Calif., Water Quality Control Plant, which uses video cameras to document damage and repairs to city sewer lines The project is set to go live in July of 2011.

The video helps city crews determine the scope of repair work. “If it’s an area where we’ve had numerous spills or tree-root intrusion, [the video] gives them the ability to go in and see just how bad it is,” explained Richard Pallante, field operations manager for the plant.

Until now, the video was stored on DVDs maintained by Pallante, who would get a phone call whenever crews needed video to perform a repair. Often, he was stuck burning extra DVDs or posting the video on shared servers.

Now, video will be available online and on demand through the city work order system. “They can pull the video up and it has no impact on my workload at all,” Pallante said.

Pallante also plans to equip trucks driven by line-cleaning crews with rugged laptops so they can use the video application in the field. The system would be capable of alerting line cleaners when they’re approaching a sewer line that’s fragile and awaiting repair or cleaning. “They would have access to the video, all the work order history right there in real time,” Pallante said. “They need to know how bad it is.”


Category  7

Citizen Engagement, Open Government and Online Service Delivery

New York City   

New York City was praised as a model for consolidated city/county government with outstanding delivery of diverse services to its 8 million citizens. In 2010, through its highly regarded 311 system, the city served its 100-millionth caller while at the same time expanding its service online through NYC 311 Online.

In 2009, New York’s 311 services became available as a free iPhone application in Apple’s iTunes Store. The application has been downloaded more than 13,000 times to date.

Judges sought municipalities that publicly reported performance data for various government functions. New York is frequently recognized for its comprehensive open government site, NYCStat. The site, which includes a citywide performance reporting (CPR) function, is often considered the most comprehensive collection of publicly available performance data available, another plus for the judges. Likewise, the New York City DataMine increases the accessibility of public data generated by city agencies and other city organizations. As part of an initiative to improve government accessibility and accountability, this catalog supplies access to a repository of government-produced, machine-readable data sets.

In October 2009, New York City launched its Big Apps competition. The city solicited the creation of digital applications using public data and received more than 80 submissions. New York City made available more than 170 data sets from 30 agencies and commissions — including traffic updates, Wi-Fi hot spots, taxi medallion and driver information, and restaurant inspection data — and encouraged the public to create digital applications. More than 39,000 unique visitors have gone to the competition’s website.

Such competitions are often pitched by governments as offering opportunities for job growth and facilitating government transparency and accessibility. What’s notable about Big Apps is that it actually achieved both of those goals, at least anecdotally. One winner, NYC Way, was an app enabling users to make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets, book tours and more. The three developers quit Wall Street jobs to expand their app nationally into a new project called My City Way. The team already has launched projects in the District of Columbia, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.