Aug 08 2012

4 Ways Citizens Are Using Mobile Apps to Contribute to Local Government

Citizens are tapping into the power of mobility to serve and be served by their cities and states.

Mobile apps are proving to be useful tools for city and state governments looking to engage and inform their citizens.

The explosion of mobile devices across the country has saturated the general population sufficiently, so governments can now reliably communicate with its residents.

Here are a few of the ways that local governments are using mobile apps in their organizations:

  1. Report Outages, Road Kill and Other Local Hazards

    Mobile devices are great tools for capturing and sending information. Everyone is a reporter now, and citizens can use mobile apps to report potholes, downed power lines or dead animals in the street.

    The city of Riverside, Calif., has deployed a 311 mobile application for precisely this purpose. Steve Reneker, the city’s CIO, told StateTech that Riverside currently receives 10 to 15 percent of its reports through mobile apps, but that it’s seeing a growth rate of about 30 percent per month.

  2. Access Local Election Results

    One of the most important functions that a local government can perform is to run and tabulate local election results. This includes everything from openings on the city council to the stats on the big race for mayor.

    Since many voting machines are already collecting data electronically, it’s now possible to provide voters with real-time data as the votes are counted. In Jefferson Parish, La., voters are able to follow election results as they come in on their mobile devices with the parish’s iOS app, Election Results.

  3. Uncover Local Treasures

    Have you ever lived in a city and felt like tourists know more about local treasures than you do? When you live and work somewhere, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day events that consume your life. But mobile apps can help spread the good word about things like free public art or a great spot to eat.

    Mobile app developer John Mertens helped build a mobile site called Art Mapper for the city of Philadelphia using the open data from, a database for art murals in the city. With Mertens’s app, Philly residents can now find and visit public murals in the city with ease, and it has since been rolled out to other cities by other developers.

  4. Welcome and Orient Visitors

    Visiting a new place can be a disorienting experience when a visitor has no clue where or how to get started. That’s why many states deploy welcome centers along interstate highways to help guide and inform visitors about the region.

    So why not take that experience and translate it into a mobile app? That’s what Sparks, Nev., did with its mobile app, plainly called Sparks, NV. The app serves up places to visit and local events to attend, and it even boasts an augmented-reality feature for select events and venues.

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