One of the most common – and important – ways that citizens interact with their government is through the reporting of non-emergency issues in their neighborhoods. How effectively governments manage these requests for service is critical to fostering stable neighborhoods and confidence in municipal leadership.

Since it was first adopted in Baltimore in the mid-1990’s, the 311 designated dialing abbreviation has become a shorthand reference for citizen issue reporting. Handling requests for service is something all governments do, whether through a dedicated call center or through more diffuse citizen communication channels.

The Open311 effort is an attempt to create a shared set of standards for handling citizen requests and fostering the development of an application ecosystem around requests for service and information. It serves as the foundation for a growing collection of software tools – both open source and proprietary – that help cities take in citizen requests and efficiently respond to them.

Open311 is also the backdrop against which municipal collaboration and app sharing can occur.  The City of Bloomington, Ind. is a leader in the development of open source tools around the Open311 standard. The city has developed a suite of lightweight but comprehensive Open311 products and is working with Google (through the Summer of Code program) to further develop this important suite of tools.

One of the core principles of Code for America is fostering collaboration between governments and promoting reuse of software and technology to aid in resolving local issues. This is the basis for our Civic Commons project and helps guide all of our other program areas.

The City of Bloomington’s work on Open311 is a great example of how governments can share solutions and build on the work of each other to use technology in ways that are smarter and more efficient.

At Code for America, we believe that this approach to tackling urban issues through technology is the wave of the future. It’s awesome to see cities like Bloomington helping to lead the way.

To learn more about Open311, visit the project website. To learn more about Bloomington’s Open311 application suite, check out their GitHub.