February 24, 2010 By Karen Wilkinson
The days of standing in line at city hall or waiting on hold to make a service request is shifting with the advent of technologies that give citizens easier access to their municipalities.
The Citizen Request Tracker (CRT) application for the iPhone and iPod Touch will give more than 580 cities and counties nationwide the same conveniences those in metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City enjoy. CivicPlus, which provides custom Web sites for these communities, announced Wednesday the release of the CRT application to those already using its CRT system, with hopes of increasing citizen involvement.
"We're bringing an unprecedented level of citizen engagement to small and medium-sized municipalities," CivicPlus CEO Ward Morgan said in a press release. "This application provides a citizen-centric mobile platform that facilitates 24/7 interaction between constituents and their government -- and we're doing it at no additional cost to our clients."
For non-emergency issues, citizens can access the app, add a description of the issue and a photo if needed, then send it to their municipality's CRT system. Using the phones' GPS technologies, the app automatically pinpoints the location, which will hopefully improve response time, the press release said.
The CRT has been used via the Internet for several years by various cities and counties, but the iPhone and iPod Touch app will expand the methods by which citizens can submit requests.
In Kennesaw, Ga. -- an Atlanta suburb of roughly 20,000 people -- IT Director Teri Chambers says the CRT has increased efficiency and that citizens "love it."
"They're not standing at a counter [and] they don't always want to pick up a phone," Chambers said, noting citizens can also anonymously report issues. "It's a fairly popular feature on our Web site."
Once a request is submitted, it's filtered through the agency's CRT system, where it's automatically routed to the appropriate staff and tracked. The citizen receives a confirmation e-mail and can then view the status of their request along with comments posted by staff.
"This goes directly to the [appropriate] person's inbox and it copies other people along the way," Chambers said. For example, a police department request would be copied to the responding staff person's superiors, in case of their absence and to ensure follow-through.
While getting the word out that citizens can simply use a handheld device to make requests will take some time, Chambers is sure the technology will catch on. "I really do think this is the way the future will be," she said. "It's a really interactive feature."
The CRT app is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch with operating system version 3.0.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.