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10 Tools for Open Source Cities

UNC-Chapel Hill’s MPA@UNC
students in onine MPA program
from http://onlinempa.unc.edu/

by Logan Harper

EDITOR: UNC-Chapel Hill's MPA@UNC program is an EngagingCities Sponsor.  Want to learn more about the benefits of  sponsorship?  Click here!

Today, transparency is a critical aspect in all areas of government. With Internet access, citizens are looking for more information about what is going on in their cities and are looking for more ways to hold their government representatives accountable. One of the best ways to provide transparency and make it easier for citizens to obtain the city services they require is to become an open source city. An open source city is one that uses a variety of new tools, including apps, to make information availble to citizens and interact with them as well. Following are 10 tools to help open source cities maintain transparency.

  1. CitySourced – This important tool is an app helps citizens report civic issues, including environmental issues and public safety concerns. The use of this app saves time and money for city governments and improves the level of government accountability.
  2. FixMyStreet – One of the biggest issues in any city is the state of its streets. In many cities, though, citizens don’t know how to make reports to ask for the city for help. With this powerful open source app, citizens can quickly and easily report potholes, collapsed drains, blocked street signs and other issues to the proper authorities.
  3. OpenPlans – OpenPlans is a company that strives to create useful transportation and planning tools for cities that wish to utilize open source technology. While this technology is most often used in larger cities, OpenPlans strives to make their services available to smaller cities as well, offering affordable ways to create transparency and make citizens’ interactions with the government easier.
  4. Electorate.Me – This website is designed to give people a voice in their area’s political and social issues. Open source cities can encourage their citizens to use this website to ensure their problems are addressed by the right government departments in a timely manner.
  5. NationBuilder – NationBuilder allows communities to build websites, social networks and other online features to allow government agencies and citizens to interact seamlessly. The organized tools available include maps, surveys, Q&A sections and real-time updates on happenings within the community.
  6. OpenPublic – This application is one of the only open source content management systems available to cities to help them reach out to the public. Cities can create websites using responsive design and, provide information to citizens. Sites are customizable and secure, and the cost is much less than buying proprietary software.
  7. Open311 – Open311 opens the doors to cities that wish to more effectively track civic issues. It also offers citizens an easier method for reporting issues or concerns to the city. These open channels of communication give citizens more control over their cities as well as peace of mind that the government cares about their input.
  8. Granicus – Granicus offers city governments the tools they need to manage and broadcast media online and through mobile solutions. By providing cloud storage for media, Granicus helps governments fulfill the needs of their citizens without spending a lot of money on individual storage options.
  9. SeeClickFix – SeeClickFix is another app open source cities can use to encourage their citizens to report problems in their neighborhoods so the appropriate government agencies can take steps to resolve any issues. In addition to providing citizens with reporting tools, this app can also send out alerts to citizens in specific areas to enhance communication and safety.
  10. Open City – Open City consists of a group of volunteers who create apps and other programs in open source formats to encourage transparency in city governments. Cities can request apps for any purpose to engage their citizens and help them get involved.

While the first open source cities may have been large cities, these important tools can make implementing open source policies into smaller cities affordable.

Learn more about how these and other tools can improve communication with city governments from MPA@UNC’s Guide to Open Government.


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