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Using Instagram to Create a Blight Inventory

The Innovation Team in Mobile shows that sometimes innovation can be delivered through commonplace technology.
December 6, 2015, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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J.B. Wogan reports on the surprisingly low-cost solution developed in Mobile, Alabama: using the image and mapping capabilities of the popular social media app Instagram to make an initial survey of the city's blighted properties.

After receiving a $1.65 million grant last December as one of the Bloomberg Philanthropies "Innovation Teams," Joan Dunlap and her team in Mobile was able to implement Instagram at no cost to fill a badly needed survey need to begin to document the location and scale of the city's blighted properties:

"The city could create an account and send code enforcement officers to take photos of blighted properties. The app would automatically document the general location of the photo and its mapping function allowed the mayor’s team to see where the biggest concentrations of blight were. Unlike the 311 call data, it was easily accessible from any workers’ computer and could be updated as officers found more properties."

In effect, Instagram helped kick start the effort by gathering data that the city previously could not access. After the initial, Instagram-enabled survey, the Mobile's Geographic Information Systems department provided "a better app that allows [code enforcement] to pinpoint the exact locations of each property." In the end, the city was able to collect data and begin to build a strategy for mitigating 1,256 blighted properties, according to Wogan.

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Published on Friday, November 20, 2015 in Governing
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