Like most cities, Bloomington, Ill., has its share of potholes, burned out street lights and other items it’s responsible for fixing. But instead of relying just on routine inspections and calls from residents about what’s broken, the city is investing in a mobile app so citizens can quickly report problems.
Bloomington is working with New York City-based developer PublicStuff on a 311 app that will be compatible with iOS, Android and Windows-based devices. Once complete, citizens using the app will be able to receive notifications on their smartphone or tablet updating the status of their requests.
Nora Dukowitz, Bloomington’s communications manager, told Government Technology that the city’s Information Services (IS) department has been developing the app in earnest since December. She added that it’s too early in the creation process to really identify any challenges associated with the project, but IS personnel are working closely with the vendor to suit Bloomington’s needs.
The new system will cost the city approximately $10,000 per year. It was previewed by members of the Bloomington City Council’s Citizens Inquiry Task Force earlier this month. If all goes as planned, the app could be available to residents by mid-summer, according to Pantagraph.com.
Bloomington joins a long list of U.S. municipalities that have implemented a smartphone-based service-request system in recent years. Dukowitz said Bloomington is just now jumping on the bandwagon because it’s in the right financial position to take advantage of the technology.
Citizens will likely be able to upload photos and location data with their requests. Pantagraph.com also reported that city aldermen will have accounts created so they can track the problems reported in their wards.
In the future, the app may also be used as a notification tool for the city, Dukowitz confirmed, enabling officials to let residents know of emergencies and other types of information, such as parking bans and snow alerts.
“We are very much in the testing phase right now and looking forward to adding more capability into our app in the coming months,” she said.
Editor's Note: This story has been modified to reflect that the app is being developed by Bloomington Ill., not Bloomington, Minn.
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.