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GovLoop Industry Perspective: Honolulu 311 Case Study

The following post is an excerpt from the GovLoop Industry Perspective Case Study featuring the Honolulu 311 mobile app. This is part of the GovLoop Industry Perspective Series. You can view the entire case study below or view here. The Honolulu 311 Mobile App is powered by CitySourced.

In early 2012, the City of Honolulu released a new app, Honolulu 311. Honolulu 311 allows citizens to use personal smartphones to report abandoned vehicles, broken streetlights, illegal dumping and other issues. GovLoop Research Analyst Pat Fiorenza had the opportunity to sit down with Forest Frizzell, Deputy Director at City and County of Honolulu to learn more about the history behind the app. Forest stated, “When our Mayor took office a year ago he said he wanted to work towards creating a “lean, clean, and smart city that is looking towards the future.”

One of the challenges of implementing mobile is having support from management. With the call to be a ‘lean, clean and smart city’ from the highest-ranking public official in the city, Forest was able to run with the project. Forest continued, “We took Mayor Carlisle’s leadership as a challenge to create innovative ways for our citizens to get connected to government easier and hopefully become more involved in the process of making Honolulu the best city it can be.”

With support behind the initiative, Forest began considering what kind of services the mobile app should provide and the key needs of a citizen on a mobile platform. One observation from Forrest was that government does not have all the answers, and should be using existing technology to help leverage change within a city. “Government can’t solve every problem, we need help form the community and through apps like City Sourced we can facilitate that happening,” stated Forrest. This kind of philosophy has not only driven innovation in the City of Honolulu, but also across all levels of government. By opening up more channels of engagement and tapping into and extracting knowledge from citizens, government can work to address some of its more critical and complex challenges.

When asked what the driving factors were behind the mobile app, Forest stated that the motivation was not just to improve transparency; a key motivation for development was a desire to move towards improved citizen engagement. Forest states, “Transparency is a large factor, but citizen engagement is the ultimate goal. If we make it easier for people to take bigger leadership roles in their community then we all win.”

The Honolulu 311 App has some really interesting features, which in time have potential to transform citizen engagement for the community. Forest stated, “The combination of using GPS data, a picture, and overlaying that on a GIS map makes it a lot easier for staff to get the necessary information needed on what is being reported. We’ll be able to cut out redundant steps that intensive manual paperwork creates. The app itself is fairly intuitive once. We like the ability for a user to enter additional text as helps our staff better assign the report to the responding agency.”

A key part of a mobile strategy is making sure that the mobile strategy ties into an entire organizations communication program. Forest mentioned that like many other local governments, the City of Honolulu is very cash strapped. Because of the tight fiscal environment, Honolulu can no longer afford a traditional 311 call center, which most cities provided. Forest acknowledges the benefits of using a mobile 311 system, “Using technology like mobile apps and social media adds a layer of “real time” communication between the public and government. We’ve been working really hard the past year and half to facilitate change and give our citizens a voice in what is happening in their community. We want people to be more engaged and feel like their voice and concerns matter, but more importantly empower them to be part of the process.”

To read the entire Industry Perspective and the rest of the interview with Forest Frizzel, please view the GovLoop Industry Perspective found below.

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Pat Fiorenza

Thanks for your comment Chris – I asked that question for some data, but since the app was so new, they haven’t done an analysis yet with hard data, just not long enough of a time to see the impact. I think it would be cool to do a follow up in a few months to see if we can get some of that information. I know they are collecting that information, but the goal right now is to get the public on board and comfortable using the app, so focusing much more on the internal/external engagement piece – which makes sense to me, but love to see some metrics a little bit later down the road.

Avatar photo Ramona Winkelbauer

Notice that according to http://govfresh.com/2012/02/honolulu-launches-311-app/Honolulu 311, now available on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.”. It looks like you can use the application even if your jurisdiction doesn’t directly connect http://www.citysourced.com/default.aspx .

The comments on iTunes for the Honolulu version range from: happiness that feedback resulted in action; to unhappiness with slowness of application; and others that have not seen their complaint acted on.