Somerville's new app will likely look like Boston's Citizens Connect app. Image via City of Boston.

Somerville’s new app will likely look like Boston’s Citizens Connect app. Image via City of Boston.

The Commonwealth’s Community Innovation Challenge┬áselected the City of Somerville to develop a smart phone app that allows neighbors to connect with their city in a more substantial way. This program follows on the heels of a successful pilot program in Boston and expands Somerville’s existing 311 service into the app world.

The new app still needs to be developed, but the plan is to allow residents to easily report non-emergency issues like potholes and damaged street signs. On the back end, city officials will see a work order management system that will help them prioritize residents’ concerns and report back to them in a timely fashion.

When we talk about the need for smart investments, this is what we mean. With a smart phone app, there’s no need to call up a city employee and explain what you’re seeing; you just snap a photo, post it to the app, leave a comment, and get back to what you were doing. There’s no ambiguity about the size of a pothole, no way for anyone to think, “Well, maybe that street sign isn’t as bad as some people say.” This app will allow the City of Somerville and its residents to see how our community functions in real time, and I think that’s an excellent step forward for a city that has always found new and exciting ways to deliver public services.