Apps have an amazing ability to put local government services at the fingertips of citizens, yet, so many fail due to poor design or limited functionality. Looking around the world, we’ve found some of the best examples of successful government apps that strike the right balance between innovation and practicality.
There’s an app for almost everything nowadays – even for councils – and they offer a very real opportunity to connect people, communities and local government together. Mobile apps can have significant potential benefits for the general public and have the power to improve government services.
If residents want to find out about local schools, check recycling dates or renew a library book many now do it using their mobile phones. While it’s important to make sure local council websites allow access to services, increasingly the most obvious way to engage users in their local services is through the convenience of a mobile app. Apps are relatively easy to develop, and universally accessible to citizens of all ages.
The challenges for local government and council apps is to ensure that enough people are made aware of their functionality and enticed enough to incorporate them into their regular app usage. A good app needs to be functional and intuitive, but most importantly it needs to be maintained and updated.
Here we have created a list of some of the most innovative council apps from around the world.
Milton Keynes Council Parking App
In Milton Keynes the land value of a parking space is more than €10,000 and annual maintenance is over €200. To cut costs and help motorists the Milton Keynes council has started installing sensors in car parks. The data is transmitted wirelessly to receivers on lamp posts and then to a central data hub. Drivers can locate and reserve empty spaces in real time via an Android or iPhone app. The data is also used to improve services – for example, by revealing that the maximum wait limit in the station drop-off zone was too short for most drivers.
Here at home, DublinTown in collaboration with Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority have also developed a fairly nifty parking app, designed to guide motorists to their car park or hotel of choice in Dublin City Centre, with regular updates on temporary road closures, diversions and roadworks.
Launched almost a decade ago in New Haven, Connecticut, SeeClickFix allows users to play an integral role in public services, reporting problems like potholes and light outages anonymously. According to co-founder Ben Berkowitz, the technology is used by over 300 municipalities and government groups across the US and has solved 85 percent of all reported issues. There are variations of this springing up across the globe, including Ireland, which is very exciting news indeed.
Arkansas is the first US state to allow citizens to access local services via a digital personal assistant, Gov2Go – and says it’s a great success. Accessible via native mobile apps, the Apple Watch and TV apps and the web, Gov2Go alerts users to important government deadlines such as voter registration, property tax payments and car tag renewals.
The Noise App
Operated by North Hertfordshire District Council, UK, The Noise App enables users to make complaints regarding noise nuisances. Users can make short audio recordings and then enter details about the nature of the disturbance which then combine to make an electronic noise diary. This can then easily be sent to the Council for investigation by submitting the complaint via the app.
Unfolding News Story App
Of course there have been some very innovative apps developed on home tuft. Fingal County Council’s award winning Unfolding News Story App is all about keeping customers up to date on all the latest local authority news events are taking place across the locality. As stories become outdated they automatically disappear and update with new ones, so content is always relevant. The app won a prestigious competition held by ESRI Ireland last year.