Android

Big feet: Walkonomics wants to crowdsource the friendliness of the world’s streets

Walkonomics

Walkonomics founder Adam Davies shares the vision for crowdsourcing street friendliness.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

The new Walkonomics mobile app rates and maps the pedestrian-friendliness of every street in San Francisco, Manhattan and England!

What problem does it solve for government?

Local and national governments are increasingly becoming aware of citizens and businesses demand for walkable streets and areas. Walkable streets bring many benefits including increased home values, higher footfall for business, reduced CO2 emissions, healthier residents, lower levels of obesity, less crime and fewer road accidents.

Identifying, measuring and improving a streets walkability is not always easy, and it can be hard to know where to start. Unlike other walkability apps that just measure how many destinations are within walking distance, Walkonomics uses open data and crowdsourcing to rate each street for eight categories that actually affect how pedestrian-friendly a street is.

These categories include:

  • Road Safety
  • Crossings
  • Sidewalks
  • Hilliness
  • Navigation
  • Fear of Crime
  • Smart and Beautiful
  • Fun and Relaxing

Users can add their own reviews and even suggest ideas for improvement. With more cities being launched soon, Walkonomics provides a great tool for government to analyse, engage and improve walkability in their city or region.

What’s the story behind starting Walkonomics?

Walkonomics was founded and launched as a web-app in 2011, by Adam Davies, a sustainable transport consultant based in the UK, the Android App was launched in October 2012, and the iPhone App has just launched. The idea behind Walkonomics is to harness the power of open data and crowdsourcing to rate the walkability of every street in the world. It came out of a frustration with existing walkability apps and the lack of real information about which parts of different cities are walking friendly, particularly when looking for somewhere to live or a holiday location.

What are its key features?

Users can:

  • Check the walkability of nearby streets and areas;
  • Search by location, place name or post code;
  • View search results on a map with colour-coded markers;
  • Discover new walk-friendly areas and streets;
  • Instantly get detailed walkability reviews and ratings of streets based on real data and people’s views;
  • Add your own ratings, reviews and ideas for improvement;
  • Undertake walkability audits and crowdsource local people’s ideas for improving streets.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

The Walkonomics App is free to download and use.

How can those interested connect with you?

Video

GovFresh Q&A: Fix 311

Fix 311

GovFresh highlights the products and start-ups powering the civic revolution. Learn how you can get featured.

What

Fix 311

Who

Minh Tran, founder

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Fix 311 aims to be a nationwide app for the 311 system using smartphones and GPS. Fix 311 also includes a CRM system to manage cases.

What problem does Fix 311 solve for government?

Every city is trying to build their own 311 app so they are essentially re-inventing what is already created by another city. Why not share resources and not waste tax payers money?

What’s the story behind starting Fix 311?

Fix 311 started out as the Pothole Alert App in 2010 and is created by Minh Tran after the Snowmageddon storm of 2010, which created excessive potholes in the DC area. Mr. Tran created the app after he lost a tire to a pothole and did not know which municipal to report potholes to since he lives near multiple cities and counties.

What are its key features?

  • Can be used in any city without having to download many 311 apps
  • Custom service list that self updates and lists the proper services associated with a city or county depending on the user’s location
  • In additional to performing service lists actions, the app is capable of displaying content like a mobile website, so Fix 311 is both a mobile website and service request app
  • Ability to filter reports not only between different cities, but also between different Precincts in the same city by using geo-boundaries detection
  • Ability to post news feeds, web links, and make phone calls for services that should not be reported by online form
  • Ability to filter out reports for roads not supported by a city
  • Municipal can update the service list / news feed without requiring a new app upload
  • Citizens can track and cancel cases
  • Mobile website for the work crew to manage cased out on the field
  • Open 311 compliant
  • Includes web based CRM system to manage cases reported
  • App works nationwide and Internationally

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Fees start at $600/year for smaller cities.

Video

Mobile democracy: How governments can promote equality, participation and customer service

Mobile democracy

There’s a lot more to democratic government than holding elections and town hall meetings.

It’s about transparency and openness in government operations. It’s about empowering citizens with information, access to services, and opportunities for engagement. It’s about being “of the people and for the people” in every way possible.

In many ways, mobile technologies offer an ideal avenue for agencies to achieve these goals. Mobile trends suggest that increasing numbers of people are using smart phones for information and interaction — for personal, business and consumer purposes. Naturally, proponents of open government have been clamoring for agencies to get on board by providing mobile options to citizens. Whether it is a mobile version of a municipal site, apps for government services, mobile civic engagement campaigns, or a combination, making some type of mobile effort can show an agency’s commitment to connecting with citizens.

So … what can mobile government do for democracy? Here are a few ideas:

Engage more people

Not just the civic-minded folks that have time to attend public meetings or write to their elected officials — mobile tools can be used to reach people that might otherwise have very limited means of connecting with government. Rural residents, youth, handicapped or home-bound citizens, even people who are just plain busy — all can benefit from mobile access to government info and services. Mobile is everywhere, and it’s growing ever more common and affordable. By utilizing this avenue, governments can provide information AND get feedback from a broader swath of the population than by other means. This is democracy — equal opportunity — or at least a significant advancement in that direction.

Meet them where they are

Too often, governments do not make the effort (or just don’t know how) to connect with residents in meaningful ways. A government “for” the people will meet people where they already are, use the tools they are using, communicate in a way they can understand. This doesn’t mean that citizens are dumb, it just means that agencies need to cut the jargon, red tape and long lines as much as possible if they truly wish to empower the people. Mobile efforts are an ideal step in this direction. Through mobile interfaces, governments can offer no-wait access to services like bill payments, licenses and registrations, transit information, citizen reporting and beyond. Bringing these options TO the people, meeting them where they are, demonstrates a true democratic mindset and a sincere effort to connect with citizens.

Power to the people

Knowledge is power, and the democratic concept of empowering people through the opening of government data is a large part of the open government movement. It seems inevitable that agencies should aim to jump-start this process by going mobile — after all, citizens are already getting the majority of their daily information (weather, traffic, socialization, stocks, news, business, etc.) through their mobile devices. Governments hold great amounts of potentially helpful data in their hands. Opening this data by releasing it on public websites is good, but using mobile interfaces to disseminate it in a usable form is even better, and puts the power where it belongs — with the people.

Affordable democracy

Mobile democracy is affordable in the deepest sense (not just monetarily). It makes government connections and interactions more affordable for citizens in terms of effort, portability, flexibility, and convenience. Given mobile gov options, people are more likely to interact with their governments frequently, increasing trust and familiarity in ways that should be the goal of every democracy. They may visit the voting booth once a year or less, but citizens use government services — transit, taxes, sanitation, public works — every day. They also use their mobile phones every day. See the connection?

For a true democracy, a government striving for openness and accountability, getting on board with mobile technology just makes sense. Many agencies have made significant mobile efforts, with success, encouraging others to follow suit. Mobile democracy takes “open data” and makes it usable for the people … and wasn’t that the whole point of open government in the first place?