BOSTON – Monday, December 17, 2012 – The Patrick-Murray Administration and the City of Boston today launched the kickoff of the Commonwealth Connect smart phone application -developed originally for use in the City of Boston by Mayor Menino's Office of New Urban Mechanics. The expanded App allows residents to report quality of life problems, such as graffiti and potholes, directly to the appropriate local government for resolution. Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez joined local officials at City Hall to announce details about this new application, available to thirty-five participating municipalities.
"Engaged citizens make neighborhoods healthy, municipalities vibrant, and states strong," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Commonwealth Connect holds the promise of helping our residents deepen their engagement in their communities and build new connections with their local governments."
"As a Commonwealth, it is in our shared interest to provide communities with tools and resources to implement or improve regional services," said Lieutenant Governor Murray. "Commonwealth Connect is an innovative opportunity to collaborate, regionalize and help maintain local services that will be delivered more effectively and efficiently."
Funded by the Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program, the Commonwealth Connect app was inspired by the success of Citizens Connect, a mobile app launched in 2009 by Mayor Menino's Office of New Urban Mechanics. Today, 20 percent of all quality of life requests the City of Boston receives from its residents comes from Citizens Connect, resulting in more than 35,000 improvements in Boston neighborhoods. To use Commonwealth Connect, residents with smart phones will simply download the app and launch it. They will snap a photo of the problem, note its location and submit it; the corresponding participating municipality will receive the request. The residents then get a tracking number for their case and can see when their issue is resolved.
"I am a strong believer that government is here to help people," Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. "Through the success of Citizens Connect app, we have seen technology empower our residents, improve our neighborhoods, and help us deliver services that are not only more efficient but also more engaging."
The City of Boston is able to share Commonwealth Connect with other communities through funding from the Community Innovation Challenge grant program. Launched in the FY12 budget and administered by the Executive Office for Administration & Finance, this program invests in innovations that have the potential to lower costs and improve critical services through regionalization, new uses of technology, and improved management practices. In the first round of this program, 100 applications were received from 285 cities & towns, and 27 grants for a total of $4 million were awarded. 138 communities are participating in the 27 projects.
"The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to providing key resources and tools to support our cities and towns in managing through this fiscal crisis and beyond," said Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez. "Through regionalization of services, we are creating innovative opportunities for neighboring communities to build partnerships to deliver local services more effectively and efficiently."
Commonwealth Connect works seamlessly across participating municipalities. Residents can report issues using the same app in any of the 35 municipalities. In addition to a mobile app, participating municipalities, if interested, will also be provided with a web-based app that can be used on desktop computers and a work order management system to handle the requests. Through the grant, these products will all be provided to each municipality for three years for free. The app is expected to launch by the spring of 2013.
"In the last five years, the opportunities for government to engage citizens have radically changed, fueled by a revolution in consumer electronics, social media, and smart phones," Boston Chief Information Officer Bill Oates said. "Commonwealth Connect is the next generation for these tools – an app that is not limited by municipal boundaries but one that is as dynamic as our residents."
Participating municipalities include Ayer, Barnstable, Braintree, Brookfield, Chicopee, Clarksburg, Easton, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Halifax, Haverhill, Holliston, Lexington, Malden, Medway, Melrose, Middleborough, Nantucket, New Bedford, Newton, North Adams, Northampton, Orange, Revere, Somerville, Taunton, Wakefield, Watertown, West Boylston, Westborough, Whitman, and Woburn. Fifty-eight municipalities applied to be part of the program; these municipalities were selected in this round based on geography and the strength of their applications.
Commonwealth Connect is being developed in partnership between the City of Boston & SeeClickFix. Based in New Haven, CT, SeeClickFix is one of the pioneers of apps and services that allow residents to act on issues they see in their neighborhoods.
In the FY12 budget, Governor Patrick proposed the development of the CIC grant program to encourage and incentivize regionalization and other innovative efficiency initiatives. The CIC grant program was supported by the Legislature, providing $4 million for regionalization and other initiatives that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of local services. An additional $2.25 million in funding for the program was provided in the FY13 budget. Applications for the second round of this program, due November 30th, 2012, are currently under review and recipients will be announced in January 2013. In the second round of this program, 118 applications were received from 287 cities & towns. Commonwealth Connect is a project of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics: Mayor Menino's Office of New Urban Mechanics focuses on piloting transformative services that leverage civic engagement and new technology.