For residents who see issues in Miami Gardens, but can’t find the time to call or go to City Hall or voice their concerns at a City Council meeting, there’s now an application designed to make that process simpler.
DigitalGarden, which was designed by the company PublicStuff, has been on the market for a little over a week. It allows citizens to submit service requests and report on issues they see in the city — such as code violations — through their smart phone, instead of having to call or go to City Hall. The city hopes it will improve communication between residents and city services like the public works, code compliance and building departments.
Ron McKenzie, the city’s chief information officer, said Mayor Oliver Gilbert’s interest in getting the project done, sped up the process after his staff had been considering the idea for a while.
“He wound up bringing it to the surface,” McKenzie said. “He saw DigiTally [the Tallahassee application] and he said that’s what we wanted.”
Gayatri Mohan, marketing coordinator for PublicStuff, said that cities often find out about PublicStuff through word of mouth.
“If a neighboring city sees that Bradenton, or Tallahassee or Miami Gardens is using PublicStuff and it’s successful and they’ve seen a significant result it allows them to see the benefits of using such a solution,” Mohan said.
Once a municipality reaches out to PublicStuff the company sends them a demo of the application and then the staff takes over. The city paid about $15,000 for the service.
The app launched March 10 and is available on both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. The app allows residents to put in service requests wherever they are in the city and ideally get a quicker response than in the past. McKenzie said expediting city services was a key factor in considering the application.
“From the beginning it was driven by residents saying they needed a way to communicate with the city,” McKenzie said. “We expect it to be a major way for people to communicate back and forth.”
Similar applications have also been created in other South Florida municipalities. The North Miami Beach version of PublicStuff’s app (Fix it NMB) has been operating for nearly two years. Patrick Rosiak, North Miami Beach’s information technology manager, said that there have been more than 3,300 requests reported through the app since it was first introduced. He said that code enforcement requests are the most common with people also reporting everything from broken signage and rat infestations to overgrown grass and beehives.
Miami Lakes is currently in a trial run with the company, but also released an app last year through another developer called the Miami Lakes Action Center.
Rosiak said that the city has included links to Florida Power & Light’s website and included a link to the National Hurricane Center during hurricane season.
“We’ve turned it into a sort of Swiss Army knife of an app,” Rosiak said.
Moving forward, Miami Gardens also plans to add special widgets for other major events, as the city did with Jazz in the Gardens, and based on what services citizens access most on the city’s website and through the app.
McKenzie hopes that downloads will increase quickly so he and his staff can track the usage and download numbers and make adjustments as needed.
“We’re hoping that the residents find it positive and start using it so we can gather statistics on how it’s being used,” McKenzie said. “We’ll mention it at the next council meeting and probably try to do some campaigns to make people more aware.”