Metro Tech

Gov 2.0 FAIL: El Bloombito Thinks New York City’s 311 App Really Bites

tumblr lxebmoxwfu1qgnjmbo1 r1 500 Gov 2.0 FAIL: El Bloombito Thinks New York Citys 311 App Really Bites

The Mayor's Instagram account is working just fine.

While the outside world piles accolades on New York City  for tech-forward initiatives like the applied sciences campus, hackathons, and open data efforts, residents who’ve tried to digitally interact with city government know there’s still a ways to go.

That’s partly why the city’s 311 app is so vital–imagine reporting that pothole or broken traffic light when you see it. Sadly, that has not been the case. The city’s social media presence may have gotten a sprucing up, but reviews of the app like “Greatest city in the World with a govt that uses 1980s technology,” are not uncommon.

Although it was first released back in 2009, the app’s general ineffectiveness finally came to Mayor Bloomberg’s attention earlier this year when he tried and failed to complain about a dirty, vacant lot.

Records obtained by the Daily News show that he ordered the problem fixed immediately:

“That same day, he summoned his top aides to a City Hall meeting, where he blasted the app’s bugs and clumsy architecture, a source familiar with the meeting said.”

Those flaws might be why it has such low adoption (only 23,000) and even fewer complaints registered via the app (4,000). But it was the Mayor’s disapproval that finally prompted the city to act.

His reaction so shook his aides that at an April 5 meeting of the city’s top technology executives, DoITT Commissioner Carole Post devoted a section of her PowerPoint presentation specifically to the mayor’s bad experience with the app and the ordered changes. “What the Mayor wants, the Mayor gets…” was the title of one of Post’s slides.

That may be–after two years on the job, Ms. Post resigned this week.

Fun fact: During that same portentous meeting, the Mayor ordered an additional category on the app so residents could report “A Vagrant on Street or Steps,” which was later PC-ed up to “Homeless Person Assistance.” Hopefully the assistance they have in mind is more compassionate than banning food donations that don’t indicate fat and salt content.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to see if we can use this 311 app to register a complaint about the 311 app.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com