WAKE FOREST — The town recently joined five other North Carolina cities in adopting the 311-style SeeClickFix feature that lets residents report problems using their smartphones.
The app, developed by a company based in New Haven, Conn., mediates between citizens and their local government, allowing individuals to snap a photo with their smartphone of a piece of trash, graffiti, or extinguished streetlight and upload it to the app with an exact location and short description.
If the town chooses to pay for SeeClickFix’s services, they can interact with the concerned individual and address the problem.
The app launched five years ago and was adopted by Raleigh in 2011. Smaller towns, though, have been slower to use the function.
Wake Forest, for example, previously used a simplistic feature called “Report It,” but switched to SeeClickFix this spring.
“This system allows us to engage and partner with the community in maintaining quality of life,” said Wake Forest spokesman Bill Crabtree. “We’ve always been transparent, but this is a new way of being transparent.”
Fayetteville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh ranked in the top 100 “top performing cities” that utilize the SeeClickFix app – as measured by their responsive governments and active citizens, according to the company. The cities make up four of the six North Carolina municipalities that use the app; the others are Wake Forest and Hendersonville.
Raleigh Councilman Bonner Gaylord initiated the app in Raleigh. He said he has heard “virtually nothing but positive comments” about the app, including that residents find it their “best interaction with government ever.”
Gaylord believes there are many ways to creatively use the app, including soliciting recommendations about park facility locations. Raleigh has already used the website and app to crowdsource ideal bike rack locations.
Raleigh Senior Enterprise Programs Manager Louis Buonpane says that the app is “a good consolidator” and multiplies the sets of eyes that are out looking for maintenance problems. People without smartphones can visit the SeeClickFix website to report as well. And, of course, there’s still the old-fashioned method of calling the city.
Not everyone is totally happy with SeeClickFix. Winston-Salem is reviewing other apps, according to its City Link Director Shantell Davis.
The city’s SeeClickFix tool informs those who report issues that their cases have been immediately “closed,” instead of explaining that they have been distributed to the proper department, says Winston-Salem Assistant City Manager Derwick Paige.
“It is misleading to what they’re actually getting,” said Paige. “We have one gentleman who regularly brings it up. He has submitted 121 cases of the exact same issue.”
Davis says that the city’s comments are not posting on the site either.
“The concept is one that we want,” said Davis.
SeeClickFix Community Manager Isabel Santos-Gonzalez said the company is working through Winston-Salem’s integration process, which she said stems from third-party software complications.
Another issue citizens have discovered is that they can find complaints from their towns on SeeClickFix’s website, but it does not mean that their town has purchased the company’s services. So while residents from Chapel Hill and Durham, for example, post on the SeeClickFix website, that doesn’t mean anyone in local government will see it.