iPhone

Voter wants to be Tinder for politics

Photo: Voter

Photo: Voter

Voter co-founder Hunter Scarborough shares the vision and mission behind his new venture.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Voter is tinder for politics. Find out which 2016 candidates support the same things you do, and have a track record to back it up.

What problem does Voter solve?

Uninformed voters don’t vote, or worse, they do. Bias is present in the news and other media (82% of Americans do not trust the news media according to Gallup Poll).

Time-consuming research is currently the only alternative. According to a study by The Associated Press, the average attention span in 2015 is 8 seconds, 1 second less than a goldfish. No one has the time or patience to do their own political research. Voter turnout is at record lows (The last national election saw the lowest voter turnout in 72 years). According to Pew, 57% of 18-to-29 year olds get political news from social networking apps and nowhere else.

The stage is primed to engage millennials and younger generations on their turf.

What’s the story behind starting Voter?

Voter was founded by myself (Hunter Scarborough) and Suneil (Sonny) Nyamathi. During the 2012 presidential race, I became frustrated by how difficult it was to find political news sources I could trust. The only solution appeared to be labor-intensive personal research. Working 12+ hour days, I didn’t have the time.

During a local election in Los Angeles last year, I decided I had had enough. I looked at the wealth of raw political data becoming available, and realized there could be a much faster and more accurate way to become informed. I created the first prototype that week, and not long after, teamed up with Sonny to begin development on what would become Voter.

Fast forward several months later, and we just launched Voter in the App Store on Independence Day. :)

What are its key features?

Simply answer a few questions to find which candidates support the same things you do, and have a track record to back it up. We’ve designed an experience that is fast, fun and engaging, while the real magic happens under the hood. Our proprietary matching algorithm does all the heavy lifting, weighing millions of data points to find the perfect candidates for you.

To ensure the highest level of accuracy, we hold politicians accountable to their actions, analyzing candidates’ voting records, public agenda, personal views, speeches and more. We present this information as a percentage, describing how closely your views align with each candidate.

We have incredible partners and resources to automate the aggregation of all this data, including: GovTrack.us, the Sunlight Foundation, Google’s Civic API, OpenSecrets and Project Votesmart.

Currently, the app will match you to the presidential hopefuls who support your views, as well as political parties. We are working to add more elections, and plan to start curating local elections in Los Angeles this fall.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Voter is free.

How can those interested connect with you?

Video

Procurement app hōrd gets an upgrade

hord

Northern Virginia-based development firm GovTribe recently released an upgrade to its federal procurement iPhone app hord.

We check in with its founders to get a progress update and plans for the future.

What was the inspiration for creating hōrd?

The team at GovTribe created hōrd because we think finding and winning government contracts should be neither complicated, expensive, nor cumbersome. We worked for many years at a large government contractor. It always seemed odd to us that the pursuit process was so inefficient. Bloated processes, expensive technology, hearsay…you name it. It all seemed a bit broken. We knew that if we could bring together multiple data sources and give our users real time insight into the activity of the government, much of the process could be improved. Also, we felt that it was time for this level of insight to be democratized. By building and pricing hōrd for the individual, cost or organizational dysfunction are no longer barriers to basic understanding.

What are its key features?

hōrd is an iPhone app that lets users follow (or hōrd) the real time procurement activity of the things they care about within the world of government contracting. For example, let’s say you have a favorite contracting officer. Add her to your hōrd and every time she posts, amends, cancels, or awards a project, you’ll know immediately. Or perhaps you have a key competitor you would like to track. By adding them to your hōrd, you’ll see when they win or protest contracts. Last but not least, hōrd provides this same capability for new projects. Add a specific project to your hōrd and it will tell you when amendments are posted, who gets the award, and key contact information. hōrd provides this level of tracking for agencies, offices, people, projects, vendors, and categories or work. hōrd is free to download and comes with a one-month free subscription. From there forward, it is $5 a month.

What does the new update offer?

Our latest release is version 2.3. In addition to providing the aforementioned capability for 130 federal agencies, we spent a lot of time responding to feedback on the user interface. We overhauled search to give more context and added key information to the details of a project. Also, we added simple tweaks like the ability to call a contracting officer directly from their activity feed. We think hōrd has come a long way since our beta release in January. There is still much to be done and thanks to our highly engaged customers, we have a pretty clear picture of where we are headed.

What have you learned developing hōrd?

The most important thing we have learned is that the problem we attempt to solve is more widespread than we expected. Our customers come from all sorts of professional backgrounds and give us interesting perspectives we never considered early on. For example, journalists like yourself who cover a specific company can track their awards in real time. Or government agency leaders who would rather check their phone than sit through a briefing on the status of an important program. We really enjoy learning about the innovative uses of hōrd and hope to continue doing so.

What’s next in the development queue?

We are currently working on building out hōrd beyond just the iPhone. One of the most frequent messages we get from our customers is the request to use hōrd via an iPad, browser, or Android device. We are hearing them loud and clear and steadily working toward platform expansion. Also, we are building more in-depth analytical reports, built on the same data that powers hōrd, to be distributed outside of the app.

Download hōrd on iTunes.

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

Appallicious joins with SF to launch park and rec iPhone app

Later today, as part of Innovation Month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will unveil SF Recreation & Park’s official iPhone App, SFRECPARK, developed for San Francisco by mobile commerce company Appallicious.

Appallicious CEO Yo Yoshida sat down with GovFresh to share how open data efforts made his company possible and what’s next in Gov 2.0.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Appallicious has created a first-of-its-kind mobile commerce platform, which allows government to create and manage its own custom mobile apps and generate new revenue through ticketing, reservations, permitting and more via mobile devices and web widgets.

What problems does Appallicious solve for government?

Smartphone users will download more than 45 billion apps in 2012, nearly twice the number of apps that were downloaded in 2011.

People are beginning to expect that they can do just about anything on their phone from purchasing tickets to finding the best dog park in their neighborhood to buying a hot dog at a sporting event. Government wants to innovate and provide residents and visitors with easy to use government apps for providing services, but many are still working to develop a website that works.

Government leaders are also trying to figure out more ways to bring in new revenue and optimize existing revenue to departments. Many government agencies are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away annually to various outside companies that manage their ticketing for concerts, museums, park passes that instead could go directly to the city or town instead of through a third party. Thanks to advances in mobile technology cities and states do not need to use outside vendors for these services and can manage this all on their own through cheap and easy to use SaaS solutions.

Appallicious solves both of these problems with its easy to use and customizable Skipitt™ platform. The platform allows government agencies to have a suite of customized mobile apps that gives residents and visitors the ability to make reservations, purchase tickets for events, receive permits, navigate their city, and even order concessions — all from the palm of your hand. Our mobile platform allows government to collect revenue directly that they would only have gotten a portion of before, and manage their own custom applications and transactions from one robust and flexible content management system. Not to mention, it gives departments a much needed mobile facelift.

The app also makes it easier for residents to make reservations for a soccer field, picnic table or get that permit they need to host an event in a city park. All of this can now be done through a mobile device or the web, saving taxpayers and government workers time and money. No longer will you have to wait on hold or send multiple emails to confirm a picnic table reservation for a birthday party.

What’s the story behind starting Appallicious?

I’ve always loved technology and public service. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help make government more accessible, but I did not know how I could make a difference. A couple weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden summed up how technology will transform government, quoting Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “All’s changed, changed utterly. Terrible beauty has been born.” It is incredible how much has changed so quickly.

As Gov 2.0 efforts began to heat up three years ago with the federal government’s launch of Data.gov and San Francisco’s open data efforts, DataSF.org, a light bulb went off. I began to start thinking about opportunities to transform the way people interact with government via a mobile device. Data.gov, DataSF.org and other Gov 2.0 efforts have begun to make government data easily accessible for developers to make all kinds web and mobile apps that make government work better and would not have been possible just a couple years ago.

Shortly thereafter, I connected with an old friend and rock star developer, Fabrice Armisen, and the idea for Appallicious was born. Since then, our team has been working tirelessly to create a mobile commerce platform for government to handle ticketing, reservations, permitting, ordering and much more, while using open data to provide incredible access, transparency, and resources for the public navigate all of the services and facilities they didn’t know they had access to.

It has been a lot of work, and incredibly challenging, but we’ve done it. And earlier this year, Appallicious was recognized for what we think is an incredible product — we were named a Silicon Valley Innovation Summit A0250 to Watch Winner. And I am happy to announce that we officially launched the platform today with our first city, San Francisco.

Tell us about the app and how you ended up working with San Francisco.

First things first, I’m a San Franciscan, and our company is based in the city. I really wanted to find a way to help the city I love.

About a year ago, San Francisco Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg and I met. He said that he wanted to bring the park system into the 21st century with an easy to use mobile app that anybody could use.

We started to talk about features that he wanted from a mobile app, he said it had to include ticketing, reservations, permits, navigation tools for finding the best dog park and it had to be flexible to allow for more features. From our initial conversations I thought the Skipitt™ Platform that we were in the middle of developing would be a perfect fit. He agreed and we’ve been working with the city for the past year on the app.

We are rolling out the app today with some of the features enabled. We’ll be adding many more in the weeks and months ahead.

What are app’s key features?

SFRECPARK makes it easy to find attractions, city parks, playgrounds, dog parks, museums, picnic tables, gardens, restrooms, news and events and more in the palm of your hand. Information is displayed with descriptions and pictures on a GPS enabled mobile map.

A few of the features activated for this release include the ability to search, filter, volunteer, donate and make reservation requests at San Francisco city parks and facilities. There is also location based mapping and directions, information, and social media integration.

Future updates will include mobile ticketing, multi-day park passes, the ordering of concessions, classes, public art, and memberships, walking tours through QR scans and location based technology, and transportation options. Additional features will be rolled out in the weeks and months ahead.

We will also be providing the app for different phone operating systems including Android™ and web mobile.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

The SF Rec & park app is free for anybody to download. Go to Apple’s app store to download it by searching for “San Francisco Rec & Park” or just click here.

How can those interested connect with you?

It’s easy. You can find us on the web at www.appallicious.com.

You can download the SF Rec & Park App for free here.

You can also email me directly at yo@appallicious.com.

Today, SF also introduced a new open data law. How important are open data laws for your company’s success?

Open data laws are hugely important for our company. San Francisco’s open data efforts made the SF Rec & Park app possible. We used over 1,000 datasets for parks, playgrounds, dog trails and more to create our maps. We used the city’s transportation datasets for people to get directions to all of the city’s attractions. All of these datasets are available on DataSF.org.

More than 70 apps have been developed for residents by civic innovators and companies since the city launched DataSF.org. San Francisco’s open data efforts have helped to not only spur the creation of apps for citizens and visitors, but also new civically-minded companies like ours and MomMaps, Routesy and Zonability.

What other cities are you working with?

We’ve started with San Francisco and are now working with a number of different departments including the San Francisco Art Commission (SFarts), and the Department of Public Health. We’re also in discussions with a number of other cities, including Los Angeles and Denver.

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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?

The 411 on the 311: Q&A with Commons founder Suzanne Kirkpatrick

Suzanne KirkpatrickWe asked new 311 iPhone app Commons co-founder Suzanne Kirkpatrick to share her thoughts on the new venture, 311 and trends in open government and Gov 2.0.

What inspired you to create Commons?

Sometimes moving to a new place gives you a fresh perspective on routine activities. When I moved to NYC two years ago, I was surprised to see so many opportunities for neighborhood improvements near my home and school, and I was fascinated by NYC’s highly utilized 311 citizen reporting system. It was clear to me that NYC citizens care about improving their city, and that our City government is committed to listening to its citizens.

But one thing that struck me about these analog and digital methods of reporting was that people were not reporting as a community — they were reporting as individuals — many people reporting in parallel without any shared awareness of one another’s activities. I then thought about designing a virtual social system that mimics the town hall meeting, where one person reports a problem or suggests an improvement, and 49 people “vote it up” (or in today’s terms, “like” it). In today’s super connected world, we need a civic engagement system designed to support conversation among many people at once – and that is how I came up with the initial idea for Commons.

Then I started thinking about the ways that I could connect to my new neighbors on the issues that I care about in our neighborhood, while on the go and in short bursts of focused time and energy, kind of like playing a game that is on-going over time and is something that you keep coming back to check and make a move. Citizens are now used to having a digital presence that is de-coupled from our traditional notions of time and space.

We have apps for citizen reporting of problems and complaints, like 311, SeeClickFix, FixMyStreet, and we have apps for sharing ideas for improvement, like Give A Minute (Local Projects), but I have this notion that these two worlds should be united in one as they seem like two sides of the same coin to me. I believe these two methods complement each other for a more complete civic engagement experience, and Commons aims to fulfill this vision.

I’m a graduate student at ITP in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I study interaction design, social software, and creative technology, a graduate researcher at the NYU Polytechnic Social Game Lab, spring intern at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Digital Coordination, and summer intern at Apple doing mobile user experience design, so I spend a lot of my time these days thinking about the intersection of these things.

Aren’t there enough 311 apps out there? How is Commons different?

We think Commons is one of the first in a new genre of “civic gaming”, a new approach to take citizen reporting social. It’s a mobile, location-aware civic media app for urban communities that merges methods from traditional citizen reporting tools, with gaming mechanics and social voting.

We hope that Commons will challenge the ways in which people think about their role in their communities, and in civic life in general. We hope it will transform the way that we as citizens engage with one another about the issues and places we share in common, and how we approach solving many of our own problems before government even gets involved.

Commons provides a fun and constructive outlet for what is usually a frustrating experience of complaining about how broken your city is. And it goes way beyond reporting a pothole — in fact, if you report a pothole in the game, you most likely won’t win very many votes or kudos from your fellow neighbors because the game is designed to reward creative solutions and collaborative problem-solving. We already have apps and websites for reporting potholes, like SeeClickFix and FixMyStreet in the UK, and like the NYC Daily Pothole, so we’re not aiming to create another one.

In our 3 playtests and on actual game day, players said they really liked the positive social mechanics and voting aspect of the game, and how ‘community leaders’ seem to naturally emerge from the streams of activity.

I don’t think people need attractive game mechanics to want to get involved in community service or town hall meetings, or any other sort of activity. On the other hand, elements of fun and competitive play introduce opportunities for serendipitous social interactions and competing to do good, which I love. Doing activities with a thematic approach, or mission-centered perspective, helps keep people focused on the objective while having fun and making each individual’s input count.

How do you hope to officially integrate Commons with municipality 311 centers?

Commons is a social platform that leverages crowdsourcing and location-based reporting techniques to improve city services and standards of living. This civic engagement game is a way to connect citizens through the places they share in common, and to enable the government to fix the right problems, faster. Through Commons, local government can 1) receive accurate and timely information, 2) identify priority areas, 3) efficiently allocate resources, and, ultimately, 4) demonstrate accountability to its citizens.

Our goal is to build the next version of Commons as a cross-platform app on iOS, Android, (and possibly RIM in cities where it makes sense), with SMS integration and interoperability with Open311 technologies and read/write APIs for each city, so that 311 teams can integrate with Commons on the backend to pull its incoming data into their current operating centers and visualize trends from the data in realt-time.

It is our hope that the data gathered from Commons will be valuable to city governments and municipality 311 centers, whose mission it is to enable citizen-centric, collaborative government and to expand civic engagement through new digital tools and real-time information services.

What trends do you see occurring in open government / Gov 2.0 that you’re most excited about?

Commons is definitely Gov 2.1+, combining the powers of serendipitous social interactions, mobile crowdsourcing, and game mechanics.

Some of the rad trends in Gov 2.0 that I’m digging right now are: 1) cities supporting open data initiatives with read/write APIs, 2) mobile and location-based services, e.g. mobile banking, m-health, and m4d (mobile for development), 3) open standards for 311 services, like Open311, 4) citywide grassroots innovation contests, like NYCBigApps and DataSF App Contest, 5) open sharing of dev tools and code so we don’t all re-invent the same apps over again for each city, e.g. Code for America. I am also a huge supporter of bottom-up projects like Open Street Map, where citizens can collaboratively edit geographical data about their cities and neighborhoods and build useful and relevant maps from scratch.

Download Commons on iTunes.

Video:

New mobile app Commons gets creative with 311

TechPresident’s Becky Kazansky has a great overview of Commons, a new 311 iPhone app that makes use of gaming and social features to better engage citizens. Here’s a short video interview featuring one of its founders, Suzanne Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick:

“It’s exciting to be with other practitioners who are thinking about the idea of the relationship between technology and social change and civic empowerment, so we’re glad to be part of that conversation. “

Download Commons on iTunes here.