Gold Coast smartphone app hands power to the people

By GovTechReview Staff
Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Gold Coast residents and visitors can now help clear the thousands of cars dumped on the city’s streets every year with a smartphone app that reports community problems with just a snap of a photo.

More than 3,000 cars have been abandoned on the Gold Coast in the past two years – mainly in hotspots such as Palm Beach, Burleigh Heads, Surfers Paradise, Southport and Labrador – with associated investigation, impoundment and storage costing ratepayers upwards of $300,000.

Now a City of Gold Coast app developed by leading mapping data specialists MapData Services (MDS) is enabling locals and visitors to report incidents of deserted vehicles from anywhere, at any time of day.

Mayor Tom Tate said the app could save the city thousands of dollars in administrative costs while also quickly ridding the streets of automotive eyesores.

“Cars dumped on Gold Coast streets, highways and reserves are not only unsightly, but often dangerous and very costly to remove,” Cr Tate said. “For the safety and reputation of our city, it’s important they are taken away quickly and efficiently.

“This app will ensure cars are removed sooner and save ratepayers’ money for more constructive spending on roads and community infrastructure.”

The app has already proven extremely successful in dramatically reducing graffiti vandalism on the Gold Coast since its launch in July 2013.

“Winning the war on graffiti requires buy-in from the entire community, not just our tireless volunteers and hardworking city cleaners,” Cr Tate said.

“Our app has put a cleaning crew in the pocket of every local, and has cut the number of incidents by an incredible 43 per cent.”

The app can also be used to report dumped shopping trolleys, water leaks, pot holes, illegal parking and footpath issues.

MDS General Manager Cassandra Barker said the simplicity of the user- friendly technology was a key feature to its success.

“It’s really as simple as taking a photo and pressing submit,” Barker explained. “The photo is tagged with its GPS location and sent instantly to Council for logging so officers can arrange a response without delay.”

The app can also be used to check on the progress of a report, and to provide feedback if further information is required.

“The solution sends the user confirmation that their report has been received and also when the job’s been updated or completed – so it’s increasing accountability and transparency for councils as well.”

“This technology is transforming traditional customer service models by providing immediate two-way reporting capabilities, so residents can bypass call centres entirely.”

The City of Gold Coast is not the only council to utilise the power of mobile technology to improve services to ratepayers. In February, 27 South Australian councils rolled-out the My Local Services app – based on GIS technology from industry leaders Esri Australia.

The app is a one-stop shop for ratepayers to access information on council services – such as kerbside collection, road closures, nearby community resources and council events.

Councils can utilise the app to direct message ratepayers through push notifications, providing information about local news, events and issues – with all information relevant to an individual’s location.

Residents can set notifications via the app to remind them of the correct rubbish collection day or payment due notices. It also incorporates a reporting option similar to the solution employed by the City of Gold Coast allowing residents across the state to alert councils of local problems.

The trend towards mobile app technology looks set to continue based on responses to the 2013 GIS in Local Government Benchmark Study, a joint research initiative from Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) and Esri Australia.

The study surveyed 150 representatives of local governments nationwide to gain insights into the use of GIS technology for council services.

In particular, the study highlighted two areas of focus – facilitating greater communication with the public and developing smartphone apps – in which councils believed they could better leverage GIS technology to improve services.

Further, the Benchmark Study revealed 58 per cent of the councils surveyed said it was “highly likely” they would deploy GIS capabilities via smartphone technology within two years.

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