The Patrick Administration and the City of Boston launched the Commonwealth Connect smart phone application in December, 2012, based on the Citizens Connect app developed for use in the City of Boston by Mayor Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. The expanded App allows residents to report quality of life problems, such as graffiti and potholes, directly to the appropriate local government for resolution. This new application is available to thirty-five participating municipalities.
Funded by the Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program, the Commonwealth Connect app was inspired by the success of Citizens Connect, a mobile app launched in 2009 by Mayor Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Today, 20 percent of all quality of life requests the City of Boston receives from its residents comes from Citizens Connect, resulting in more than 35,000 improvements in Boston neighborhoods. To use Commonwealth Connect, residents with smart phones will simply download the app and launch it. They will snap a photo of the problem, note its location and submit it; the corresponding participating municipality will receive the request. The residents then get a tracking number for their case and can see when their issue is resolved.
“I am a strong believer that government is here to help people,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “Through the success of Citizens Connect app, we have seen technology empower our residents, improve our neighborhoods, and help us deliver services that are not only more efficient but also more engaging.”
The City of Boston is able to share Commonwealth Connect with other communities through funding from the Community Innovation Challenge grant program. Launched in the FY12 budget and administered by the Executive Office for Administration & Finance, this program invests in innovations that have the potential to lower costs and improve critical services through regionalization, new uses of technology, and improved management practices. In the first round of this program, 100 applications were received from 285 cities & towns, and 27 grants for a total of $4 million were awarded. 138 communities are participating in the 27 projects.
Commonwealth Connect works seamlessly across participating municipalities. Residents can report issues using the same app in any of the 35 municipalities. In addition to a mobile app, participating municipalities, if interested, will also be provided with a web-based app that can be used on desktop computers and a work order management system to handle the requests. Through the grant, these products will all be provided to each municipality for three years for free.
“In the last five years, the opportunities for government to engage citizens have radically changed, fueled by a revolution in consumer electronics, social media, and smart phones,” Boston Chief Information Officer Bill Oates said. “Commonwealth Connect is the next generation for these tools – an app that is not limited by municipal boundaries but one that is as dynamic as our residents.”
Commonwealth Connect is being developed in partnership between the City of Boston & See Click Fix. Based in New Haven, CT, See Click Fix is one of the pioneers of apps and services that allow residents to act on issues they see in their neighborhoods.
Commonwealth Connect is a project of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics:Mayor Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics focuses on piloting transformative services that leverage civic engagement and new technology.