June 23, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
San Francisco released EcoFinder, its first iPhone application, which locates where residents should recycle and dispose of certain materials. The application is based on a city XML feed and uses location-based software to identify a resident's closest recycling facility. It was released on June 15.
"Residents can now find out where to recycle or properly dispose of materials using our convenient, location-based mobile application," wrote Mayor Gavin Newsom on CleanTechnica.com. "Instead of dumping old electronics or furniture on the sidewalk, the EcoFinder iPhone app tells you where these materials should go, based on your location."
According to Lawrence Grodeska, Internet communications coordinator for the city's Department of the Environment, as of June 20, the app had been downloaded 1,400 times. "For the first week we were hoping for 1,000 downloads, and much to our delight the actual totals have surpassed our goals," Grodeska commented via e-mail.
The city also has a Web-based version of the tool posted on the Department of the Environment's Web site for residents sans iPhones. "The app has also gotten some great coverage for the Web version of the EcoFinder tool, which was a secondary goal for us since the EcoFinder is a big part of our outreach around recycling and proper disposal of toxic/hazardous materials," Grodeska wrote.
The city decided to house the EcoFinder information on an XML feed after years of storing it in a database. "The XML feed powers the online tool, and it's enabled us to work with developers or anyone who wants to use the data -- to get our data further out into the public sphere," Grodeska said.
According to Apple's App Store, EcoFinder searches for locations to properly dispose of materials like:
"This iPhone app is a great example of San Francisco embracing the emerging philosophy of Government 2.0 -- using Web and mobile technologies to provide more effective processes for delivering government services," Newsom wrote.
The city has pledged to recycle 75 percent of the materials that would otherwise go to a landfill by 2010 and to create zero waste by 2020. According to information released in May, in 2008 the city prevented 72 percent of recyclable material from going to landfills.
This follows the city's other green initiatives like the San Francisco Solar Map, which is a Web-based tool that assesses residents' homes to identify how many solar panels can fit on their roofs and how much power would be generated.
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.