Changing the Game on Civic Technology

The City of Philadelphia recently announced a new civic challenge focused on the design and building of a new “widget” for the Philly311 Mobile App. This effort puts Philadelphia at the forefront of integrating civic technology – apps and solutions built by outside developers with open data – into the infrastructure for delivering services and information to city residents.

Several months ago, the City of Chicago broke new ground on this front by integrating a web-based application for finding flu shot locations into the City’s website. This action gave the independently developed application a much higher profile by folding it into the official city web presence. It also provided something of an official “sanction” for the app because people could easily find it on the city’s website.

Several weeks later, SEPTA took a similar step by advertising independently developed applications to riders on its regional rail service. Both of the applications advertised by SEPTA to its riders had been built by outside developers using data and resources initially put together to support local civic hackathons. And now they are being marketed directly to SEPTA riders – by SEPTA itself!

With the recently announced Philly311 Mobile App Widget Contest, the City of Philadelphia is taking this idea one step further. We’re looking for developers to build useful widgets using city data and other resources that can be delivered to users through a mobile app that has an installed base of close to 15,000 users (and growing).

This effort underscores Philadelphia’s commitment to the idea that the solutions to the issues that face our city will be developed not by the government alone, but by partnering with stakeholders in our communities and by harnessing the talent and creativity of our local technology community.

Join the Philly311 Mobile App Widget Contest and help us change the game on civic technology in Philadelphia!

6010343fbae51171161e510c8ed2f3b7Mark Headd is the City of Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer. Follow him on Twitter @mheadd.

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