In our ongoing work with Pothole.info, we get to follow the development of “swarm theory” as it unfolds in reality. Specifically, we are tracking the smartphone apps that are connecting citizens – regular folks who can point their mobile devices at problems such as potholes, graffiti or broken street lights - with the government agency responsible for their repair.
This story is on SeeClickFix and lead developer Ben Berkowitz. More than 90,000 local problems have been sent through the SeeClickFix system, about half of which have been rectified, claims Berkowitz. The developers have secured more than $1.5 million in financing, and Berkowitz was named by The Huffington Post as “Greatest Person of the Day” on December 2, 2010 for his work at providing Millennials – the biggest cohort to incorporate apps into their daily lives – an opportunity to get involved in their communities. My story on this cites independent research that shows that people in the 21-33 year age group readily believe that an app can create meaningful change, particularly on local government matters.
What incentive do municipalities have to go along with all these complaints from SeeClickFix? Several cities that have embraced it are able to remove staff from pothole identification duty and shift their work to actually fixing the potholes. And the accuracy of how the app identifies the location of the pothole is reducing redundant repair trips, bringing costs down further. Potholes are fixed and cities, counties and states save money – and citizens get a smoother ride. It’s a win-win-win – as a writer, it’s the kind of consumer technology story I love to cover.