Need to report a civic issue? There might be an app for that

NANAIMO – Coun. George Anderson proposing smartphone app that allows residents to easily report issue to city hall.

A Nanaimo politician is calling on council to consider a new smartphone app that would allow residents to report civic issues from the palm of their hands.

Coun. George Anderson wants council to look into a new app that would see people access city information and report issues, like potholes and graffiti, from their smartphones.

It wouldn’t be the first municipality to tap into mobile technology. Kamloops, Surrey and Vancouver all have apps connecting residents to city hall.

With the popularity of smartphones and people using electronic means like e-Town hall meetings to get engaged, Anderson says enhancing those kinds of services for people would be a win for the community.

“As a government, we need to try to get to more people. There [are] advantages, obviously, to paper copies and all those types of things, but I think there’s great opportunity to look at the information technology side of things and perhaps get more people involved.”

Anderson would like to see the app include information like schedules for public facilities and billing, as well as the ability for residents to tip off civic problems. The idea stems from the Kamloops’ app, which launched three years ago. People are able to snap a photo of an issue, pinpoint the location with GPS and send it to city hall. They get a text message when the problem is fixed.

Adam Chadwick, geographic information systems manager for the City of Kamloops, said the app takes about 30 seconds to use and eliminates the need for people to look up a phone number for city hall or remember where they saw the problem. The software costs $9,000 annually and while it’s hard to quantify, he says by making it easy for people to report issues, the city is more likely to find out about them sooner, leading to fewer costs, less liability and better service for citizens.

“People are reporting what’s annoying to them. If you take care of those … then you are getting back to providing the service people want and the problems concerning to them,” Chadwick said.

It can also help the community stay on top of issues like graffiti.

“You can drive around downtown and virtually see no graffiti because people are on it,” he said. “They take photos and it’s removed right away.”

Chadwick believes more municipalities will get apps thanks to the growing number of smartphone users and said the more places that adopt it, the more functional the software will become.

A motion for a report on a new app will be made at a council meeting on Sept. 29.