Local governments are learning to do more with less.

One guy is helping their cause.

Barry Steinhart offers an innovative tool to help cities and counties become more efficient with time and resources – and he does it for free.

It’s not an infomercial; the man is legit.

Steinhart is behind the Citizen’s Application (available here) for the iPhone, a software that allows government officials and citizens to report issues such as graffiti, broken streetlights, potholes, etc. directly to city or county databases.

It’s a simple concept. Open up the application, take a photo, provide some details and then click submit. The location and issue is catalogued automatically, saving time by no longer having to take reports by hand and manage data entry.

The model is a good one. So why give it away for free?

Well, Steinhart began building the technology for his personal business, Graffiti Protective Coatings, which started more than 20 years ago as a graffiti removal service. Then, a report of graffiti was taken through time consuming paperwork that was later entered into a database. Steinhart said that the company was taking more time on data entry than actual graffiti removal.

As his client list grew – he now has more than 1,000 – so did the need for simplifying the process. With the advancement of technology, Steinhart began looking around.

That’s when he hooked up with Fred Darland, one of those smart tech types who wears glasses. Between the two of them, they spent close to a year designing the system that is now the Citizen’s App.

“We wanted a mobile application to monitor all activities, collect the data real-time, provide reports to customers real-time and also route all our data,” Steinhart said. “We were looking for a platform and it turned out the new technology of the iPhone was the best.”

As an example, now a code enforcement officer can eliminate three to four hours of office time and month end reporting can be done with a push of a button.

The good news for cities and counties is that Steinhart began building the technology for his personal business. There was never a plan to sell the technology since it was built to service Graffiti Protective Coatings internally.

“The Citizen’s App is a byproduct of this technology so it’s something we can give away for free,” Steinhart said.

The application is limitless for cities and counties. It can be used for code enforcement, vacant properties or whatever is an issue for the community.   

“It’s like going from regular mail to email; so many efficiencies,” Steinhart said.

Steinhart doesn’t want to minimize what they are providing for free to cities and counties, but he says the technology is already created for them as a tool and the cost is minimal to pass it along.

“Cities absolutely love this,” Darland said. “When we meet with departments like neighborhood services, environmental health services, public works or police departments, the meetings turn into loud creative sessions where folks are talking over one another and ideas are flying.

“We even get the occasional high five.”

James Spencer can be reached at jspencer@publicceo.com