August 14, 2012, 9:49 AM — When residents of Riverside, California see a pothole, they arent limited to griping about the damage it will do to their cars. Instead, they can pull out their iPhones, take a picture of the street damage, and use Riversides Mobile 311 App to upload their report straight to a City Hall database.
The problem often is fixed within a day, according to Steve Reneker, the chief innovation officer for Riverside city government.
You go out anywhere in the city with the iPhone, and you see any kind of problema code problem, a streetlight, a potholeand the problem gets resolved, said Fred Speer of Xerox, which helped the city develop the app as part of a broader array of digital services for Riverside officials and citizens.
Riverside was ahead of the pack in embracing iPhone applications and other digital tools in municipal government. But the rest of the country is catching up: Local, state, and federal government agencies are increasingly using the iPhone and iPad to transform the way citizens and government relate to each other. New mobile apps are making it easier for citizens to get information, demand services, and hold officials accountableand to do it on the fly.
I think the Internet generally is changing the relationship [between governments and their citizens], said Andrew Weber at the Library of Congress. iPhone applications like his agencys Congressional Record app make the interaction closer to real time, and thats a benefit to citizens who are engaged, and who stay in close contact with whats going on.
Mobile apps on the iPhone and iPad are giving U.S. citizens greater access to their government in several ways:
Solving problems and finding services
Like Riverside, the city of Huntsville, Texas provides a free iPhone app for residents. They can see agendas for city meetings, a schedule of other public events, and contact information for important city agencies. The app also lets users photograph and report problems to the city government.