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The purchase and installation of a new citizen engagement mobile device application for the City of Racine was approved Tuesday evening by the city council.

Based on a recommendation from the city’s management information systems (MIS) department, it will spend $23,000 to purchase and install the app from its creator, Los Angeles-based CitySourced Inc. That price tag includes installation and first-year support. It also sets the stage for a $20,000 annual maintenance fee to be paid by the city.

The app, as deployed in most municipalities, is usually branded to specifically identify it. The company recently deployed the app in Chamblee, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. It’s called “MyChamblee,” according to a press release. It will be the official platform for residents of the city of about 9,000 to access government in a single location. They can submit, track, and view nearby service requests through smartphones; the new tool will be more accessible and user friendly, city officials said.

One description of the app says: “A user captures either a photo, video, or audio of public works problem. The user then uploads the media and, along with location information pulled directly from the device, submits a report.

“The list of active report types is customized to meet the needs of the local municipality. Once a report is submitted, feedback is provided to the user based on the action taken by municipality.”

Tuesday night’s action by the city did not indicate what the Racine version will be called. But it was noted that it would be part of Racine’s CityWorks system that is already in place for permits, inspections and other citizen and internal uses.

Why this application?

According to the vendor: “First, each time you purchase a stand-alone app, you must build it, deploy it, and market it. Each step of the process can be done in-house or through a vendor. The final step, marketing, is necessary for any new citizen-facing initiative
“By shifting away from standalone apps, to single mobile app framework, you will be agile in your approach to pushing out services via mobile. The ability to test, measure, and iterate quickly, is the best approach to managing development uncertainty.”

The app could possibly be leveraged to provide Racine citizens a treasure trove of statistical information about their neighborhoods. In 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pulled back the curtain of city statistical information, giving the public easy access to almost real-time crime data. That kind of geography-based data was previously only available in aggregated databases, and released on a monthly basis.

There was no indication if the Racine app will be used in that way.

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.