citysourcedThis one caught my eye because of the new Geico commercials, with a talking pothole. Have you seen it? The pothole causes an accident, then realizes she can’t call for help because, well, she’s a pothole. But what if you could actually take a photo of a pothole and send it directly to the city, urging them to fix the accident-causing, strut-ruining eyesore?

At TechCrunch 50, a new startup presented a way to do just that. CitySourced provides a real-time communication system that links you with your city officials for the purpose of reporting things that need to be fixed. Potholes, dead animals on the side of the road, a fallen stop sign, a wrong-facing street sign, unsightly graffiti–the list goes on.

The system comes in the form of an application for most major smart phone platforms, including Blackberry, Android and the iPhone. Take a photo, and send it through the CitySourced app to your local authorities. The app will access your location via GPS so all the necessary information is sent along with your photo. You can include your report stating what the problem is. You can also include your own comments, and top things off with a tweet. The Twitter integration is interesting, as this could help empower end users while making local governments more accountable.

On the government side, they receive an inclusive report that has a map of each report, pending reports, complete reports, and the number of reports have been submitted for a given location. Such a dashboard is entirely necessary, as the CitySourced application would be rather useless for all parties involved if it didn’t provide a way in which local authorities could sift through the incoming data. What will be interesting about such a dashboard is how cities can use CitySourced to provide this information back to the public so they too can keep track of the complaints they have filed or may be concerned about.

This reflects the blessing and the curse sides of real-time data sharing. Yes, it’s really convenient that we can send local authorities known issues from around the city without having to remember to pull out our camera, go home and write a letter attempting to describe the location and verity of the problem. But organizing all of that incoming data on the government side is crucial for the system to actually help cities.

And the city of San Jose, CA has already signed a deal with CitySourced, in an attempt to provide more effective communication with the public and internally as well. The concept of CitySourced readily goes along with the changing attitude for public-facing applications and networks linked to government agencies.
Ushered in with President Obama, increased transparency and communication between these two aspects of our country’s structure means that the effectiveness of government can be improved.

With that in mind, there are a number of other city-run programs that can take advantage of real-time data coming in from local citizens. I imagine that more cities will turn to CitySourced or create their own similar programs on local levels, if only for the outward perception that they are working harder for the city.

About the Author:

Kristen Nicole

Discussion

    Miles20 September 2009 10:56 am

    Thanks for article. I also wanted to make sure that SeeClickFix was on your radar. We launched a similar service about a year ago and have 1000s of issues reported, paying government customers and 10,000s of users. Major media properties like the New York Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco
    Chronicle and Dallas Morning News have all embedded SeeClickFix feeds or web widgets in their websites. We were featured at the Gov 2.0 conference by O’Rielly and won the WeMedia Pitchit competition in March (http://seeclickfix.blogspot.com/2009/02/seeclickfix-wins-wemedia-2009-pitchit.html). Other key features include:

    Open Data and API. It should be easy to get data out of the system andwe’ve implemented a bunch of methods. We are committed to Open Data and provide this data under a Creative Commons
    Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license:
    * Web browsing (each issue has it’s own web page)
    * XML issue feed (geographically and keyword focused)
    * JSON
    * KML
    * GeoRSS
    * Excel (feature of paid version SeeClickFix Pro)
    * CSV (feature of paid version SeeClickFix Pro)
    * Printable Issue List (feature of paid version SeeClickFix Pro)
    * Open 311 API
    * Embedable widget (available to be placed on other websites with keyword and geographical focus)

    Community Features. The community should drive what gets noticed, documented and prioritized. For example:
    * Commenting engine on each issue
    * Image gallery to browse by photo
    * I want this fixed too! voting system
    * Share on Facebook features
    * Youtube video integration
    * Send issue to a friend
    * Flag as inappropriate crowd sourced moderation
    * Twitter issue reporting

    If you’re interested in learning more, please check out SeeClickFix.