M-government in action
While mobile applications are still in the early stages of development and implementation for many local governments, some cities and counties are already taking advantage of the possibilities. The applications are used to accomplish a variety of objectives, including providing information, and facilitating interactions and transactions for residents. For internal government use, mobile apps are connecting field crews and facilitating cross-agency collaboration.
One of the most common m-government applications is transforming current websites into mobile device-compatible sites. For instance, Fairfax County recently launched its mobile website, m.fairfaxcounty.gov, which works on every handheld device and presents all of the information available on the standard website in a mobile-friendly format, Licamele says. "Every web page published through our content management system is automatically converted to render a mobile version of the page," he says. "[And,] applications that allow our public to conduct transactions, submit complaints, complete forms, etc., with the support of databases, make use of additional mobile templates so information is rendered effortlessly in mobile devices. Our Department of Information Technology has designed a mobile infrastructure to support this kind of web content so the public can conduct business from their mobile device."
In Enid, Okla., in addition to a using a mobile-compatible website, residents can sign up to receive emergency alerts and information about local crimes via text and email, says Derrick Silas, web communications and social media developer for the city. To provide the service, the city works with San Francisco-based Nixle. Residents using iPhones can launch the city's Crime Reports Mobile application, which provides real-time official crime data and sex offender information, Silas says. And, with City Reporter, an application for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry, residents can notify the city of concerns or problems such as potholes, broken traffic lights, damaged playground equipment, graffiti, flooding and fallen trees.
While a number of vendors are available to provide cities and counties with mobile applications, some governments are developing their own custom programs. Fairfax County recently developed its own iPhone app to let library patrons search the card catalog, reserve books, get GPS-based directions to libraries and manage their accounts. In addition, the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs and Geographic Information Systems are developing a countywide iPhone app that will include links to county social media sites, GIS maps, RSS feeds, emergency information, and other features that help residents find information and interact with county agencies.
Similar applications in Arvada are making a difference in government efficiency. "They are shortening the time to resolve issues, including pothole repair, graffiti clean-up, code violations and any other issues that are part of our day-to-day efforts," Longshore says. "Citizens feel like they are being heard. Using the mobile applications, a citizen who sees an issue can take a picture with their mobile device and have it sent right into the [citizen relationship management] CRM application, where it is assigned through the system to the individual or group responsible for the issue, all with no manual intervention. This speeds our response and allows us to be more productive."
In addition to mobile apps that are available for public use, many cities and counties are using mobile technology for internal operations. In Arvada, police, building inspectors and utility services staffers already use mobile technology in the field, and the city is experimenting with tablet and netbook technology to provide field access to mapping applications used by water, wastewater, streets and other divisions, Longshore says.