“Government is what we do together.”
— Elizabeth Warren
The City of Philadelphia is looking for ways to partner with the local business, technology and entrepreneurial communities to identify creative new solutions to the problems facing our city.
This is one of the underpinnings of our Open Data Program, it’s a value that helped shape our StartUp PHL program and is encapsulated in our application for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge.
Philadelphia is a city that faces challenges, but we are rich with ideas and talented people to put those ideas into action. We are looking for ways to better partner and collaborate with technologists outside of city government to help us design solutions to more efficiently deliver public services.
One exciting component of this multifaceted effort was announced last Friday – the City released the source code for a small mobile web application that allows users of our Philly311 mobile app to look up the license and inspection (L&I) history on a property in the city. The L&I application is built on a powerful new API (Application Programming Interface) that provides unprecedented access to license and inspection data. This API is currently in beta and being tested by a small group of users as we make changes and enhancements on the way to a full production release early next year.
And as exciting as the prospect of API access to license and inspection data for the City is, equally exciting is the way in which we released the source code for the L&I mobile application. We make use of the popular software development hosting platform GitHub. GitHub users are able to “fork” the source code for the L&I app and add their own changes or enhancements – if a user comes up with a valuable or innovative feature, or fixes a bug in the software, we’ll “merge” their changes into the L&I mobile application.
This means that any web developer in Philadelphia that wants to enhance the way the app works can contribute their changes directly to the official city application. Got an idea to make the app work more efficiently, more elegantly or just want it to do something it doesn’t do already? Fork the source code, make your changes and submit a pull request.
If you’ve ever looked at a government software application and said “I can make that better,” here’s your chance. This is just one small piece of a much larger effort currently underway in Philadelphia to pair the talents of our technology and entrepreneurial communities with City Government.
Be on the lookout for more cool stuff coming soon!