The following article appeared in the “Daily Local News” on August 2, 2013.
WEST CHESTER – Borough officials are making it clear they want residents to submit their problems to them, and if residents don’t know how to do it they are willing to show them.
As a response to the new citizen engagement smartphone app available to residents, officials announced a free training session on the use of the app to any community member who wants to learn more about the service.
The free training seminar is set for Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building located at 401 East Gay Street.
The app had a soft launch in late June and officially went live July 8.
Titled “West Chester Connect,” the app allows anyone to easily and quickly report any environmental, quality-of-life or public safety concern directly to the appropriate borough staff.
The reports can include photographs and exact GPS information; officials said this will help staff make decisions quicker and more efficiently than they could in the past.
According to the Bill Mann, the borough’s chief information officer, the idea for the app came after Councilman Chuck Christy attended a conference and passed the information onto Mann.
From there Mann investigated the various platforms the borough could use eventually settling with City Sourced. In a partnership, City Sourced and Mann designed the app.
“As soon as I saw (City Sourced) I knew we needed to do something like that to make it easier for the community to reach out,” Mann said.
Mann added the cost to the borough, at $3,000, was within his IT budget.
“It was a no-brainer for the cost,” Mann said.
Since the release, Mann said the app has shown its value and has helped the borough complete tasks more efficiently.
In the monthly report Mann submits to Borough Council, a total of 31 work orders were recorded since the app’s release on July 8. Mann said of the work orders, about 70 percent have been citizen generated.
“I think with that usage for that period of time is good and hopefully it grows and grows,” Mann said.
As an element of the app, push notifications, are delivered to the reporting individual’s compatible device to keep them up to date and engaged as the work order is processed.
Most important to officials is that the app provides accountability as unfilled orders will be clearly visible to app users.
Borough officials said in a statement the borough is committed “to using technology when possible to make engagement and involvement between the members of our community and our government officials as productive as possible.”
The app is free and available in the Apple, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry stores. Those looking for it can search for “West Chester” or “West Chester Connect” to download the app.
Residents can also register at www.citysourced.com and report incidents from their home computer.
This will provide another way to keep up on all of the work orders created by citizens.
Mann said what drew him to the app was its ability to work across platforms and to work with different types of smartphones.
“It’s another way to publicize it,” Mann said. “We all have different levels of expertise on these things. I figured it would get the word out more and give some hands-on experience.”
If the training session goes well, Mann said he is willing to host a few each year.
Community members who wish to sign up or have questions about the training are asked to contact the chief information officer, William Mann at email@example.com.
Follow Daily Local News staff writer Jeremy Gerrard on Twitter @JeremyGerrard.