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In the summer of 2009, while I was working on the Nathaniel Kinney campaign, one of our goals was to help raise the level of transparency and efficiency of our city government through the use of the internet and mobile apps. This was articulated in a posting by Nathaniel Kinney (CLICK HERE to read that posting). An article I read just moments ago reminded me of that goal we had because it showed how application and web developers are raising accountability, increasing transparency, and improving the efficiency of city governments across America.

In the tech section of CNN.com is an article, "Cities embrace mobile apps, 'Gov 2.0'" The article starts by sharing an uncomfortable experience of Craiglist founder Craig Newmark while on a train in San Francisco. While on the train, he took a photo with his iPhone and sent a message to City Hall. That message was acknowledged a week later.

This "movement" has been described as "Gov 2.0" which, as the article explains is, "where mobile technology and GPS apps are helping give citizens ... more of a say in how their local tax money is spent. It's public service for the digital age."

The article continues to explain that, "tech geeks transform banal local government spreadsheets about train schedules, complaint systems, potholes, street lamp repairs and city garbage into useful applications for mobile phones and the Web."

There are a number of statements that I really liked in this particular article. One was that the "aim is to let citizens report problems to their governments more easily and accurately; and to put public information, which otherwise may be buried in file cabinets and Excel files, at the fingertips of taxpayers."

One specific app "tells officials where the graffiti is. It also tells citizens which spray-paint murals, potholes, dying trees, broken parking meters and tipped-over street signs the city is aware of, which it plans to fix and which it may be ignoring."

In response to Nathaniel Kinney's July 2009 posting, Gabe Morris told us about "Apps for Democracy." The CNN article also briefly mentions Apps for Democracy as well in addition to a Hawaiian-named company Haku Wale.

Haku Wale apparently spent about $20,000 to develop it's "EcoFinder" app. You can watch a video about the EcoFinder app (and some other relevant stuff - DataSF.org) by watching the video below.

Other apps make it possible for app users to find out what transit schedules are and when the next train will be reaching a specific destination. StumbleSafely and Are You Safe give app users safe walking route information using a mobile users GPS location and municipal crime data.

Washington residents use an app that may also be very helpful here in Hawai'i as well. Washingtonians "can use the DC 311 iPhone app to take photos of graffiti, potholes and other trouble spots.

The photos are paired with GPS locations and then uploaded straight from the street into a database that local officials can see.
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Comment by Tyler Mongan on January 28, 2010 at 1:08pm

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