Urban Fold

Tech Tools Have Revolutionary Potential for Cities

Governing's Stephen Goldsmith looks at the trend of smart phone applications related to city governance and civic improvement. He sees huge potential in these early stages of a trend that's likely to experience exponential growth.

"The number of these apps is increasing, as is the areas they cover. SeeClickFix.com, when combined with a city Twitter account, forms a similar two-way communication. In Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco, an iPhone app or a text message can tell users where the nearest bus is and what time it is likely to arrive at your stop. Routesy, which texts users, combines the raw data available from the city's bus and Metro system, and feeds it into an algorithm that estimates when the bus or train will arrive at your stop. The bottom line is less time spent standing in the rain waiting for a bus.

As is often the case, productivity revolutions start with a technology. But the real value doesn't arrive for quite some time, when people adapt their processes to take full advantage of the new technologies. That's why the current changes in service delivery are so exciting - this is just the tip of the iceberg."

He compares this current trend to the introduction of a 311 telephone system in Baltimore in 1996, and how that system started out with simple goals but eventually expanded into a complex and innovative way for the public to interact with government.

Full Story: Phone + GPS + Camera = Revolution

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