Some $500 billion is spent each year by governmental entities on information technology. Now so-called “civic hackers” are taking the vast troves of data that cities like Chicago collect, and designing apps to make that data more useful to the public. From apps that track food poisoning to potholes to parking -- the city of Chicago is leading the way in the growing "govtech" sector. We find out more. Joining us are Steve Hendershot technology correspondent for Crain's Chicago Business, and John Slania, associate dean for the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago and freelance investigator for the Better Government Association.
Pothole? Abandoned Car? There’s an App For That…
By John Slania
Henry Binford is a formidable figure, bursting with civic pride and armed with an iPhone.
When Binford sees a wrinkle in the social fabric – say an overflowing Dumpster or an abandoned vehicle – he uses a mobile app on his iPhone to report the infraction to authorities in his hometown of Evanston.
The SeeClickFix app allows him to take a photograph of the problem and write a brief description. When he files his report, officials at the City of Evanston not only can see the problem, they also receive GPS coordinates showing the exact location.
"I feel like I’m doing my duty as a citizen," said Binford, 70, an associate professor of history and urban affairs at Northwestern University.
Binford lives in a house that backs up to a strip shopping center.
Over the course of more than two decades, he’s reported to the city incidents of "fly dumping," people illegally disposing of construction debris and old tires in the waste bins behind retail stores.
Binford used to make phone calls. Now he’s used the SeeClickFix app six times in the past three years to report fly dumping and one instance of an abandoned car.
"It’s easier and the response is quicker," Binford said. "The city immediately can size up the problem and know how big a crew to dispatch. And the problem usually is resolved in two days, when it could take a week before."
The Better Government Association compiled a list of municipal apps it discovered while researching its most recent Good Government Spotlight Report. View the BGA’s Muni App Guide.
Derek Eder from DataMade talks about how open government data is helping programmers come up with great new apps and websites that help citizens, and what the future holds. Watch the video.