Call it a righteous start.
The Office of the City Controller this morning announced that it has launched a free iOS app that allows Philadelphia citizens to submit photos, video and text of alleged fraudulent or misappropriate uses of city taxpayer money.
The app, Philly Watchdog — the design of which is certainly a result of functionality over form — is a welcomed concept. Should a citizen run across questionable municipal happenings, he or she has the ability to submit a photograph or video accompanied by text describing the event and address information or geocoded location. There’s also a button that gives users the chance to call the Controller’s office directly, should they not have the number saved in their phone (tell us who does). The app cost $5,400 to develop, according to a Philly Clout report from the press conference.
What it lacks is a call to action defined for the average citizen who, frankly, might not understand what the Controller’s office is responsible for. Examples of fraudulent street-level activity could help, instead of a link to office press releases. And an Android application could help the office connect with the growing number of iPhone-alternative smartphone users.
The email response from a non-anonymous submission was a nice touch. “An investigator from my office will contact you if additional information is needed. All information and contacts will be kept confidential to the extent possible by law,” said the automated email, signed by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
Several attempts to submit photos and video to test the application earlier this afternoon failed over 3G and WiFi connections with two different iPhone 4 devices. A spokesperson for the Office told Technically Philly that the “city’s server has been on and off all day.” Subsequent attempts were successful.