Atlanta Is Engaging Citizens Through Apps

The city of Atlanta has embraced technology and the data created from creative apps developed by citizens in a big way, as reported in an article at Creative Loafing Atlanta. Some examples of interesting things happening in Atlanta:

Tires App– Tires dumped on the side of the road or in vacant lots is a neighborhhod eyesore and nusiance. An app built by Georgia State University’s Department of Geosciences, allows people with their smartphones to pinpoint their location, enter in the number of tires, snap and upload a photo, and press submit. The data is compiled in a database available to residents, police, elected officials. The information assists neighborhood cleanups by volunteers and city officials.

Sidewalks – Safe and walkable sidewalks should not be a luxury. A Georgia Tech professor is outfitting wheelchairs with Toshiba tablets that professors, students, and volunteers will push across the city’s estimated 2,200 miles of sidewalks to document their condition. This volunteer effort will provide Atlanta officials with a comprehensive map showing the condition of the city’s sidewalks that the general public will be able to access online. The effort will save the city hours of costly labor and give construction workers a clear idea of the needed repairs.

Focus on Results – Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has helped to create an environment within City Hall where data is valued as a public policy tool. The Mayor has created an internal team named Focus on Results Atlanta (FOR Atlanta) – that’s tasked with measuring how City Hall departments and programs perform.

Open Data Portal -The city’s Finance Department is launching a new “open data portal” that will give residents access to Atlanta’s revenues, expenses, licenses, debts, awards, and other figures. Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard says the portal will give citizens unprecedented access to “pure data” from his department, which could help reduce costs and improve services. He wants to open his department’s doors so that outsiders can bring fresh ideas for cutting costs, improving services, and solving other problems.

Cycle Atlanta – The Planning Department, working with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, has rolled out an app called Cycle Atlanta that allows pedalers to record their commutes, document potholes and dangers, and share those findings with City Hall. Officials will be able to use the information to help them plan new bicycling improvements and determine how bikes should factor into other transportation projects.

Atlanta is utilizing data to empower people to take charge and find solutions for community issues. With the help of the above mentioned apps residents can document various concerns and present that evidence to elected officials or department heads to investigate.

In February, Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, helped organize Atlanta’s first-ever Govathon, a 24-hour hackathon where tech-minded individuals came together to turn bureaucratic data into something useful.

One of the apps developed was Crime Syndicate, a free Web-based and smartphone program that allows people to access police reports online and to report crime. The Govathon also led to the creation of three other programs that will allow users to search city park amenities, report vacant homes, and rate Atlanta’s customer service.

Atlanata’s willingness to engage citizens through technology is great to see. Some of these ideas might work in your community as well.


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