March 12, 2013 By Sarah Rich
With a population of 1.38 million, Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida – and this large city is looking to stimulate its economic development. To that end, Jacksonville has launched new mobile and Web applications that let users access information on special events.
On March 7, the free mobile app – called JaxHapps, which is available on Android and iOS platforms – was made available to residents in response to Mayor Alvin Brown’s call to improve economic development within the city.
On the heels of last year's hurricane season, Jacksonville launched a natural disaster readiness app in May 2012 called JaxReady.
The free app helps users locate evacuation zones, and provides weather- and fire-related news in addition to other features.
“More than just a day or a night out for residents, special events are a driver for economic development," Brown said in a statement, "and we should be exploring every option to ensure they are enjoyed by as many people as possible."
Once the app is downloaded, users can view information for special events that are both city- and non-city-sponsored, such as sports, cultural and music events.
“It was just a way for us to connect the dots and make sure that citizens had access to all this information via their smartphones,” said Jacksonville CIO Usha Mohan.
The app lists each event by date, providing such information as where the event is being held, cost to attend and a description of the event. Users can even purchase tickets via the app – a feature Mohan says makes the app a “one-stop shop” for special event information. Once users click “buy tickets,” they are directed to external websites for completing ticket purchases.
In addition to launching the mobile app, Jacksonville revamped its special events website, now located at JaxHappenings.com. The website displays a comprehensive calendar of events happening in the city, and users can search for events through a series of categories like “Business” and “Technology.” Mohan said that within the next month, the city plans to release the categories feature on the mobile app.
No additional costs were incurred through the development of the mobile app and website, which were both developed in-house by the city’s Information Technologies Division and Office of Special Events.
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.