Citizen Tech in Santa Cruz County

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Today marks the official launch of the Citizen Connect application for the County of Santa Cruz. That’s right, the County has created a mobile application for iOS and Android (iPhone and Google operating systems for the uninitiated) that will allow for citizen reporting of things like potholes, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, and even illegal dumping. County citizens can participate by snapping a photo of their grievance, along with their location, which is then forwarded to the County. Beyond that the app also features an interactive map of all of the County parks within the unincorporated areas so that you can explore new public places and their amenities.

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The app is similar to what other Bay Area cities have done in creating the 311 system, which also empowers citizens to report things like pot holes and standing water via text message, but it goes one step further in creating a centralized portal of sorts that can also be used to look up commonly searched government information, and even pay County taxes and fees from your phone. It can even facilitate online voter registration! And really this is just the beginning because the app can be easily (hopefully) expanded to incorporate a whole host of other interactions… Paying/contesting your parking tickets anyone?

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And while the initial launch is pretty rudimentary in comparison to other more commercially focused apps, it does take a clear step in the right direction for Santa Cruz. Government 2.0 is all about information accessibility and interaction, and you can bet that more people will be able to access information easier through this app, and have a better relationship with their local government because of this experience. So thank you Santa Cruz, I downloaded it this morning and I have already made plans to see a park that I have never visited before.

You can download the Citizen Connect app here.

4 Comments

  1. While this may be convenient for those who have cell phones (I don’t), it offers no more information accessibility and interaction than before. My wife and I have been photographing infrastructure problems and emailing them to City and County government departments for years, all without a cell phone and special applications.

    It is the act of interaction and involvement that is critical, not the technology used. Does it really take a billion dollar cell phone industry to contact local government officials a mile away and report a problem?

  2. Amanda Robinson says:

    I think this is an excellent idea! Perhaps it will allow the citizens to be more engaged with their government and involved in the overall process of making things happen. They can be part of the solution rather than just rant about the problem. Now that people can interact on a platform they are familiar with, I hope the County Government checks-in, listens to the community and actively tells the story of the process.

  3. stevepiercy says:

    Great idea, terrible implementation.

    You must disable security settings on your mobile device to allow installation of applications from unknown sources for this app. Why did they not release via Google Play for Android or the Apple Store for iOS?

    The app is integrated into an issue tracking system that allows the County staff to route the request more efficiently and track its status. With email alone, the issue can get easily lost and not be tracked. Email alone requires more staff time to process than if it is in an issue tracking system. See the announcement.
    http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Portals/0/County/CAO/press%20releases/20150629_CitizenConnect%20.pdf

    There’s also no public facing website where citizens can submit issues. That’s a huge missed opportunity to leverage technology. The City of Capitola did a much better job in this regard by using a third party vendor. The SCCRTC uses a web form that just sends email and no tracking system, but they do a pretty good job of routing it to the responsible agency or resolving issues if they are theirs.

    SCCRTC Bicycle and Pedestrian Hazard Report
    http://www.sccrtc.org/services/hazard-reports/

    City of Capitola Submit a Request
    http://www.cityofcapitola.org/community/page/submit-request

  4. stevepiercy says:

    The County recently released the app through both the Apple Store and Google Play, thus removing my security concerns.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1018932839 # July 22, 2015
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=us.santacruzcounty.scccitizenconnect # July 6, 2015

    I installed it on my Android device.

    The app is a good start for issue tracking.

    I’d like to see:
    * a feature to send feature requests
    * an “Other” option to report issues that do not fall under the available issue types

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