The Public Technology Institute, a technology research and consulting organization for cities and counties, has selected the City of Philadelphia for two categories in its annual Technology Solutions Awards, marking our third year in a row! (see 2012, and 2011)
Philadelphia won the Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) award for its consolidating mapping website, www.phila.gov/map, a new tool that makes it easy to browse City data such as crime incidents, construction permits, zoning codes, and more.
Phila.gov/map, or “slash map” as it’s referred to internally, was built by the GIS Services Group, a team within the Office of Innovation and Technology that supports GIS programs across City departments. They’ve designed it with simplicity in mind, making it easy for departments to publish data sets that can be tied to a map.
“The platform allows us to translate a spreadsheet of rows and columns into a visualization that makes sense to anyone,” said Dave Walk, a GIS Developer with the GIS Services Group. “You can zoom into your neighborhood and see what’s going on around your block.”
Another feature of phila.gov/map is the Regions browser, letting you view boundaries of zip codes, political wards, council districts, and more. Click the Search button and you can key in an address to determine exactly which district it falls under.
Together, these features empower departments to open their data and citizens to explore it.
The second designation from the PTI Solutions Awards was for the Philly 311 Mobile App, the citizen engagement platform released in September of 2012.
Available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, the Philly 311 Mobile App empowers residents to report quality of life issues to the City such as graffiti, potholes and building violations, and get notified when the issues are resolved. Other issues that have been reported can be viewed on a map and users can interact with each other by commenting and voting on nearby requests.
The Philly 311 Mobile App is set apart from similar apps in several ways. In particular, it is the first 311 app to be made available in 16 additional languages. Users can report issues to the City in their preferred language–the details will be translated to English prior to arriving at 311, and then comments from City staff will be translated back to the user’s preferred language before being sent back.
More recently, the Philly 311 Mobile App demonstrated its ability to serve as a platform for citizen engagement by adding a feature for last week’s primary election – the “Election Day Widget” took users to a new feature in the app providing information about the election, a polling place look-up tool and a sneak peek at the ballot. This ability for the platform to dynamically add new widgets is what prompted the recently announced Philly 311 Widget Contest, inviting our power users and civic coders to build the next feature of the Philly 311 Mobile App!
Phila.gov/map and the Philly 311 Mobile App have been recognized by PTI because they both represent platforms upon which the City of Philadelphia is building and expanding citizen engagement. While we’re proud to have been recognized three years in a row, we’re working just as hard to make year four even better.
Tim Wisniewski is the City of Philadelphia’s Director of Civic Technology. Follow him on Twitter @timwis.