Chicago App Development Goes In-House

Chicago Public Schools launched a new mapping tool for parents, but unlike a similar tool launched nine years ago, this one was created without the help of a contractor and yielded a better result.

by / November 13, 2012
Bert Kaufmann/Flickr CC

When it comes to software development, times have changed in government. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) launched a new app that proves that software development is getting faster, smarter and cheaper. Chicago Public School Tiers is an online map tool that helps parents find public schools. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the new app replaces an earlier schools app, and is more intuitive, was cheaper to develop and is built on a more accessible platform.

The previous version of the tool, School Locator, was developed in 2003 by a contractor hired by CPS. At a cost of $15,000, the tool was difficult to use, and no one in the organization knew how to update it. When it came time to develop the new version, it was clear that the model for software development had changed.

Rather than hire a contractor, Chicago Public School Tiers was developed with the help of civic hackers using free tools, including Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables. Using open source software and maintaining their own open source platform for future development, the project took only about two months to build. The end result is simpler to use, and the city can update the tool as needed without the help of a contractor.

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