Denver is pioneering an innovative app that promises to save taxpayers money while improving the services they get.
By Charles Chieppo.
The city and county of Denver has become a hotbed of local-government innovation. First came Peak Performance, which invests in municipal employees to give them the skills to make government more efficient. When a key licensing official resigned just before the deadline for licensing the city’s new retail marijuana establishments, those identified as top performers by the Peak Performance program were called in from different areas of municipal government, and they got the job done.
This January, Denver launched pocketgov, a user-friendly Web application that brings municipal government closer to residents, saves money and reduces wait times for those whose issues require a call to the municipality.
Pocketgov allows taxpayers to communicate with local government via a mobile device or home computer. Residents simply sign up online and provide basic data such as email and street addresses. From there they gain access to information that ranges from property values to how to get a business license to schedules for trash collection, recycling and street-sweeping. Users also can sign up to have reminders of things like trash-collection dates sent to them.
Want to know where to go to get a driver’s license or state ID? Can’t remember whether you registered to vote? Just type in the question and pocketgov will provide the answer. Users are also just a click away from learning who their federal, state and local elected officials are.
The application also allows users to easily report problems such as potholes or graffiti by taking a picture and uploading it. Those without access to a camera can report simply by providing their location and typing a quick note describing the issue.
Pocketgov is adding new features each month. Recent additions include the street-sweeping schedules and notifications, voter-registration information and the results of recent elections.
One goal of pocketgov is to reduce the call volume to city/county offices; Denver officials expect to save taxpayers about $250,000 a year from the resulting staff reductions. But there’s another expected benefit: improved service thanks to reduced wait times and allowing the remaining call-takers to provide better service to those whose problems are better addressed via phone.
Of course Denver isn’t the only hotbed of public innovation out there. But it is showing that the wise application of technology can make a big difference in the way government does business.
Charles Chieppo is a research fellow at the Ash Center of the Harvard Kennedy School and the principal of Chieppo Strategies, a public policy writing and advocacy firm.
Originally published on the “Better, Faster, Cheaper” blog at Governing.com.