Last week, our friends at SeeClickFix announced the mapping tool’s integration with Washington D.C.’s new Open311 API.
What does this mean? Officially, “The cities’ use of this open source data platform will enable citizens to communicate service requests directly into their cities’ CRMs.” So, basically, it’s an upgrade to the city’s previous phone-based 311 system, which allowed people to call in with non-emergency requests for assistance with city services and police matters. Now, any issue reported through SeeClickFix’s maps for D.C. will automatically get added to the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center. This can include things like broken traffic signals, trash pickups, potholes, and, as we saw earlier this year, unplowed streets.As usual, people can report issues via three SeeClickFix platforms:
- the website, available at www.seeclickfix.com;
- the widgets, embedded on sites like TheCityFix DC: dc.thecityfix.com/seeclickfix
- or the smart phone app, available for Android, Blackberry, and iPhone.
Other cities, including New Haven, Conn., Tucson, Ariz. and Manor, Tex., have already started using SeeClickFix to send data into their citizen request management (CRM) systems. Dmitry Kachaev, director of research and development for Washington DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), said he hoped the Open311 API in Washington, D.C. (and San Francisco, which also embraced the platform last week) would become the standard API for every city currently operating a 311 system and any city considering adding one (h/t Streetsblog.)
All of these efforts contribute to creating an Open311 standard, and ultimately, increase transparency, accessibility and participation in city government and civic affairs:
Open311 is not meant to refer to a specific app or any one incarnation of 311 services. Instead Open311 intends to be a specification of an open platform for 311 services. This difference may seem subtle, but it’s an important one. It’s the difference between closed platforms like the iPhone and open platforms like Android or the web which are enabled by open standards: the Android operating system, HTML, and HTTP. The challenge we need to address is creating an open standard by looking at APIs like those offered by D.C. and SeeClickFix and coordinating the commonalities of different city infrastructure to distill core requirements for a universal 311 API. Once this core standard is defined, new user interfaces and custom workflows can be created by anyone and shared between cities to provide distributed innovation.
You can keep tabs on D.C. open APIs here: https://api.dc.gov/. Currently, there are three APIs in “beta” mode: Service Requests/311, Geocoding and DC Circulator.