Two weeks ago, the city launched its Philly 311 app, giving citizens a way to report city service problems with their mobile phone. So how’s it going?
According to the numbers, Philadelphians are using it, that’s for sure.
But now, just as the 311 service itself was celebrated at concept, criticized at launch and then steadily improved, with some shots along the way, all eyes are on how the mobile app addition to the workflow is helping connect citizens and the city.
311 app project manager Tim Wisniewski tells Technically Philly that since its launch, the app has been downloaded more than 2,500 times. More than 850 city service problems have been reported through the app, Wisniewski says. He adds that the day after its launch, the app was the 53rd most downloaded app in the iTunes store.
People have also been answering other users’ questions, Wisniewski says, making the app the “civic engagement platform” the city imagined it to be.
Despite these numbers, Philly Post contributor Brian Howard points out that it seems like the app hasn’t cured the city’s 311 system of all its ails. He details three instances where people reported problems that were deemed “completed,” when it was clear that the problems weren’t fixed at all. (One issue Howard writes about actually comes from one of our readers.) These people seemed most frustrated about the lack of communication from the city.
These aren’t new problems. When this reporter used to report on city service issues, lack of communication from the city was the most common complaint people had about city services. Still, Wisniewski points out (as does Howard) that these three instances are few compared to the successful requests people have filed with the app. (Few apps are without their customer service complaints).
If the app is to follow the path of the full 311 call-center service, and other city efforts, the bumps can be expected. In a city suffering digital divide issues, some will question how widely the app can be used. Still, provided it’s a small part of an overall strategy and continues to evolve — the on-going improvement is the real challenge — the mobile app can be a nice supplement, but surely no cure-all.
Remember: the app is just another way to communicate with the city. It won’t be picking up trash or fixing graffiti on its own.
Tell us about your experiences with the app in the comments.