East Valley cities are keeping up with technology, launching multiple mobile applications to help residents better connect with the city they live in.
“A lot of us live on our phones,” said Jessie Brodersen, Mesa webmaster. “Like anybody else, we see that the majority of people of all ages are going toward smartphones, from young people to older people.”
Currently, the four largest East Valley cities all use mobile apps, although, the number of apps per city varies.
“It’s really a part of our digital platform,” said Jennifer Alvarez, Gilbert spokeswoman. “We’ve had the discussion on whether to have one main app or multiple.”
But because the town believes different residents will often only use one aspect of an application and might be mindful of a how much memory a large app will consume, multiple platforms seemed the ideal compromise, Alvarez said.
“Most apps are brand new,” she said.
My Gilbert, Gilbert’s first app, was released in January 2012. It includes most of the information found on the town’s website and also allows residents to report issues directly to the town.
The town’s other apps, the DDACTS (Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety), Heritage District, Gilbert Police and Riparian Preserve were all completed in the last year, the latter three since April.
“People are reporting things on Facebook,” Alvarez said. “Social media is not a place to report crime, but the apps allow people to report that information using the same technology.”
Tempe’s mobile app, Tempe 311, Mesa’s My Mesa, Chandler’s Chandler PublicStuff and Gilbert’s myGilbert all work fairly similarly, allowing residents to take pictures of issues such as potholes or graffiti and report it as it immediately in app. The Town of Queen Creek offers its residents a silmar app, called GORequest.
“It makes it easier to report things that you see,” Brodersen said. “I know for me, if I see a pothole on my way to work, it’s easier to report it right away.”
Using the app is more immediate and makes knowing where something like a pothole is located easier to remember, she said.
“I know for me, I’m running between work, meetings and running to pick up the kids,” Brodersen said.
And while many applications are similar, some cities offer different apps for different subsets of people.
“The apps (Mesa has published) are very specific to what they do,” Brodersen said. “A pothole is very different than visiting the National History Museum.”
The Heritage District app from Gilbert has audio for a walking tour, shopping and dinning suggestions and a map for parking.
“It’s a really fun way to discover the downtown area,” Alvarez said.
But building mobile apps means allowing residents access to information in ways they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, Alvarez said. Last year, high school students competed to create an app using town data.
“We’re really trying to utilize all this data we have available,” Alvarez said, which was the inspiration for launching the Spark App League project.
Students Eric Rodriguez, Alex Jones and Omar Benitez from Bioscience High School won the competition for their design of an application that lets visitors to the Riparian Preserve take pictures of wildlife, track their exercise and view a calendar of events, among other aspects. For a reward, the winning school was given a $1,000 donation, the students were each given a $250 gift card and the town distributed the app in the Google Play app store.
“Kids are building apps in their homes and we really wanted to utilize and encourage that spirit,” Alvarez said.
The biggest challenge for the municipal apps is letting residents know about their available, she said.
“We’re always looking for the next thing,”Brodersen said. “We really do ask ourselves: Is there an app for that? Should there be?”
East Valley cities’ mobile apps:
Queen Creek: http://evtnow.com/5kj
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