Getting Started with open311

This is a continuation of an article about open311 use cases in which I looked at three cities using open311 solutions to communicate with their constituents. This week, I’d like to offer some advice about getting started with open311 technology. The best places to start are with mobile reporting applications and the constituent relationship management (CRM) applications that they can tie into.

Mobile Solutions

Most open311 solutions at this time are native applications due to the ease of connecting to the phone’s camera and geolocation. Native apps offer a more robust experience for the user.

Mobile reporting apps are designed to work into your CRM environment. The benefit of using an app built using the open-311 standard is that it allows you the flexibility to change out these applications as needed.

Utilize an existing app like Citysourced or SeeClickFix that allow for reports from all over the country. Sign up with the company, then promote the app to your constituents. The benefits of using one of these solutions is that they are cloud-based requiring no hosting on your end, and they market themselves.

Connected Bits developed an app called Spot Reporters which both large and small cities like Baltimore and Brookline, MA are using. The app is customized per city, so users will look for the app specific to their city to download.


Ideally reports from the public or created internally are maintained in a CRM application. Intelligov, Motorolla and Kana have popular CRM systems used by public sector organizations. These are commercial products that come with a potentially hefty price tags, but robust feature sets.

If your organization is able to host a PHP server, consider the uReport suite, which I talked about in my last post. The City of Bloomington developed an open source suite of applications that use the open311 protocol including iPhone and Android apps, a CRM backend, and a proxy for embedding forms on your website. They can be used together or independently.

Where to go from there

Using applications built on the open-311 protocol opens you up to a world of open data innovation. Non-profits and communities interested in civic code projects are doing wonderful things with open311 data.

Contact 311labs which collaborates with Code for America to use create visualizations of an organization’s 311 data.

Also consider promoting your data to the public for developers to use. Promote hackathons through organizations like Hacker League or local startup incubators in your area, or pair up with nearby municipalities to expand your reach.

Keep up with open311 news at

Jera Brown is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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