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FCW : July 15, 2015
July 15,2015 FCW.COM 17 Any city government can use the technology, which is open source and freely available on GitHub. San Francisco put its own unique spin on the app by allow- ing subscribers to sign up for noti- fications on tree plantings. With Citygram NYC, New Yorkers can find information on vehicle colli- sions within a radius of up to 4 miles. In Charlotte, topics include traffic accidents, historic district reviews, and development and rezoning plans. Yet even with that user-friendly approach, the number of partici- pants has been low. McDermott said Charlotte’s app had 200 sub- scribersasofJune9—outofa city of roughly 800,000 people. She said officials plan to raise aware- ness about the app’s features and eventually add notifications for other activities that are likely to attract greater interest, such as street closures, capital projects, water main information and 311 services. There are bigger signs that Americans have not fully bought into open data’s value. According to a Pew Research Center survey released in April, only 53 percent of respondents said open data makes government officials more account- able to the public, 49 percent said it improves the quality of govern- ment services, and 48 percent said it allows citizens to have more of an impact on government affairs. Jim Van Fleet, a Code for America fellow in Charlotte, said demonstrat- ing real-world utility is one of the big reasons to be positive about City- gram. “I think it’s one of [the best], if not the best, representations of the power of local open data,” he said. He added that the app also encourages city governments to keep their data current to ensure that “relevant, accurate information is placed in citizens’ hands.” The demand for more A Lexington official said Citygram has been a success. “People are happy to not have to call the city about what’s being done on their street,” said Jonathan Hollinger, senior administrative officer at the city’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Develop- ment. “They can get that information proactively.” Lexington subscribers receive notifications about code complaints, building permits and foreclosure sales. But that might just be the tip of the iceberg. Officials are looking into adding alerts when utility com- panies are working on particular streets and expanding the feature on code complaints to include more detail beyond a simple notification. However, some aspects of code enforcement, such as photos of houses or other private property, probably won’t be available on the app. “I would love to have every bit of information out there, but it’s a fine line between what’s open data and what’s public record,” Hollinger said. Lexington also has a Hous- ing Dashboard app that lets users explore housing trends, such as property values and foreclosures. City officials would like to add more census data to the app to help small companies decide where to locate their businesses. Hollinger said Lexington resi- dents are already asking for text and email notifications on more topics. “As soon as you flip the switch on letting the flow of information out, people want more, which is healthy for government,” he said. n CITIZENS HAVE MIXED HOPES ABOUT WHETHER OPEN DATA WILL IMPROVE THINGS Improves the quality of government services Allows citizens to have more impact on government affairs Source: Pew Research Center survey LEARNING FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT GCN, a sister publication of FCW, covers innovative IT solutions at all levels of government, including: n Cost-effective storage in Austin, Texas; Morgan County, Tenn.; and Northumberland County, Pa. n CRM system upgrades for New Hampshire n Machine translation in Virginia n Speeding up virtual desktops in Round Rock,Texas See all the coverage at GCN. com/local. 49% 49% 49% 48% NO YES NO YES 0715fcw_016-017.indd 17 6/23/15 3:42 PM
June 30, 2015
July 30, 2015