Citizens Connect

Overview
Citizens Connect is a mobile app that helps residents report quality of life issues, such as graffiti, directly to the right person at City Hall to take action.  The app empowers residents to be the City’s eyes and ears, helping us make our neighborhoods even better.

The app is designed for Android phones and iPhones.  When residents launch the app, they select the type of case they are reporting (e.g. pothole, graffiti), snap a photograph of it, and add a note if they are interested.  When the residents submit the case, it is routed into the City’s work order management system so that it gets immediately to the right person in City Hall to fix the problem.  The resident receives a tracking number and an alert when the problem is resolved.  The resident can chose to share their case publicly, and see and follow other cases in their neighborhood and across the city.

Results
Since it launched in 2009, well over 10,000 neighborhood issues a year have been fixed through Citizens Connect.  Roughly 20% of all cases received by City Hall now come in through this channel.

Through Connected Bits, the principal partner on the development of Citizens Connect, this app has been replicated in a variety of other cities and been the inspiration for the development of similar apps.

Related Research & Publications

This study evaluates the effects of Citizens Connect on the way Bostonians report public issues, finding that those who use CC report more often and over a broader geographic range than those using “traditional” channels (i.e., hotline, internet). It also attracts a younger renter population, which is underrepresented in traditional channels. In turn, Citizens Connect raises the probability that an issue will reported in certain neighborhoods, particularly those high in young renters.
This article investigates how communications advances affect citizens’ ability to participate in coproduction of government services. The authors analyze service requests made to the City of Boston during a one-year period from 2010 to 2011 and, using geospatial analysis and negative binomial regression, investigate possible disparities by race, education, and income in making service requests. The findings reveal little concern that 311 systems (nonemergency call centers) may benefit one racial group over another; however, there is some indication that Hispanics may use these systems less as requests move from call centers to the Internet and smartphones. Consistent with prior research, the findings show that poorer neighborhoods are less likely to take advantage of 311 service, with the notable exception of smartphone utilization. The implications for citizen participation in coproduction and bridging the digital divide are discussed.

Key Links

  • Download data from reports from the Citizens Connect app
  • See the most recent Citizens Connect cases
  • Connect with Connected Bits, the developer partner on this project
  • Download the app for Android phones or iPhones

Contact Information
For general information contact citizensconnect@cityofboston.gov.  To access the API, please contact developers@cityofboston.gov.