open311 Use Cases

Exciting new advancements are taking place in the world of open311, which is a data standard that various applications can be built on. A number of open311-compliant open source and commercial applications allow data to be easily shared and used by each other, such as CRMs, mobile reporting apps, and other web interfaces displaying report data.

Follow the open311 community at @open311 or under the guidance of Philip Ashlock explains, “Open311 is a form of technology that provides open channels of communication for issues that concern public space and public services. Primarily, Open311 refers to a standardized protocol for location-based collaborative issue-tracking. By offering free web API access to an existing 311 service, Open311 is an evolution of the phone-based 311 systems that many cities in North America offer.”

In part one of a two-part blog series, I will examine how three example cities: San Francisco, Chicago, and Bloomington, Indiana are using open311 technology to communicate with the public. In part two, to be published next Friday, I’ll offer suggestions about getting started if you’re a smaller organization.

San Francisco

The City of San Francisco has been a trendsetter in the open data movement for the public sector. Using open311, San Francisco continues to prioritize both the public availability of data through a publicly available API and continued expansion and improvements in ways that constituents can report issues and interact with the city’s customer service center.

The City of San Francisco uses commercial solutions to collect and respond to public reports including the Lagan CRM and a custom mobile app designed by CitySourced. In addition, San Francisco accepts reports from sites which allow for reports to be filed anywhere in the country: Fix311 and SeeClickFix. San Francisco also allows constituents to report issues via Twitter!


Chicago is on the cutting edge with the help of the Smart Chicago Collaborative and Code for America. Through the Smart Chicago Collaborative, the non-profit and the City of Chicago joined forces with various funding sources to collaborate on civic innovation projects. They host projects like Civic Innovation summer where “teens focused on civics, media, and technology,” and the Chicago Works For You website, which allows users to view reports in a map view.

The City accepts reports online through an application developed by Spot Reporters, via text message, and smart phone using the Chicago Works app created by 2pensmedia.

Other developers are getting involved:

Service Tracker Chicago developed by Code for America “lets you track service requests from submission to resolution of issue and status email sent to requester.

Using the city’s open311 data, Every Block allows users to follow different areas of the city down to the block level. More than simply displaying data, the site’s goal is to start community conversations. “Join in the neighborhood conversation when you’ve got something to contribute — a question for your neighbors, a news report, an event listing, or just a heads-up about something people in your neighborhood should know about.”


Much smaller than the last two example cities, The City of Bloomington, Indiana, which is the organization I work for, got involved with the open311 movement to create open source solutions that any municipality can use.

In 2012, we released an iPhone mobile app, Georeporter, with which users can select one of many available cities to report issues to. Currently, eight cities are allow users to report issues through the app.

In 2013, with the help of Google Summer of Code interns, the City released an Android version of Georeporter.

Municipalities can also use the source code to customize their own iPhone and android apps and put them on the market.

Bloomington internally developed an open source constituent management tool, uReport, to manage incoming issues and a related proxy to embed forms on our website at Together all four applications create an open311 suite, used internally but also available to other municipalities.

A few organizations, such as the City of Columbus, Indana and Peoria, Illinois are now using the suite of applications and a couple more are in the test phase.

The entire suite is available on Github.

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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