NEW HAVEN, CT — Right on the heels of celebrating its 10-year anniversary, an innovative New Haven company is launching a new global app which its co-founder said will make it much easier for its millions of users.
Last month SeeClickFix, a New Haven-based company, turned 10. In August 2009, the first SeeClickFix iOS app was released as the first global 311 app for reporting an issue to government officials anywhere in the world.
“Today marks the launch date for SeeClickFix iOS 5.0 and we’re excited to announce some new bells and whistles,” co-founder Ben Berkowitz said Monday.
SeeClickFix allows users to report non-emergency problems from downed trees to clogged sewers to graffiti or potholes. Local officials monitor the site and respond to the problems reported and also to the person who reported it.
Since their launch, more than 4 million issues have been documented on SeeClickFix. From potholes to illegal dumping, over 90 percent of those issues have been fixed by hundreds of governments and millions of engaged citizens.
The majority of those issues in the last five years have been documented through the SeeClickFix iOS platform, Berkowitz said.
The problem, Berkowitz said, is that the company — which now has more clients across the globe including nine Connecticut municipalities — has become a victim of its own success.
“We have a lot of repeat calls with the old system — a lot of redundancy,” Berkowitz explained. The new app, he said, will allow both SeeClickFix and the caller to see that a pothole issue or a downed wire in a certain neighborhood has already been reported — so that caller won’t need to report it again.
“It’ll will definitely make it easier for the caller and for us,” Berkowitz said, adding that his staff of 35-plus workers who handle calls out of an office on Chapel Street in New Haven, will be able to deal with solely new issues in the new app.
And in another bow to technology, Berkowitz said the new app will allow callers to phone in an issue by simply snapping a photo of the problem on their cell phone.
“As we looked to revamp the iOS application we were motivated to provide a beautiful and delightful app that would make citizens and officials feel pride in their forward thinking city,” Berkowitz said. “We also looked to make the process for getting issues fixed easier and more efficient for citizens and officials alike.”
Berkowitz said the goal is to free up more phone time for SeeClickFix — and the user — which he said is an absolute necessity these days.
“The majority of citizens have grown distrustful of city services and subsequently apathetic as a result of opaque service request process and lack of transparent feedback loops,” Berkowitz said. “This led to low engagement with city hall.”
“At its most basic implementation the SeeClickFix application solved these problems and led to wide adoption in many cities,” Berkowitz added. “In cities like Detroit, use of the mobile application has outpaced calls into city hall.”
SeeClickFix has grown out of its New Haven origins to cover thousands of towns and neighborhoods both in the United States and across the world. In the past year SeeClickFix has become a critical tool to help hurricane ravaged areas in the states of Texas and Florida.
The tool centers around a web-based map that displays all user comments. All users may add comments, suggest resolutions, or add video and picture documentation.
While SeeClickFix initially aligned itself with many news organizations when it first launched, today it pays the vast majority of its bills by working with government municipalities directly — contracting with those municipalities to find and solve neighborhood problems.
Municipalities have willingly signed on with SeeClickFix after finding the company does a better job than the cities themselves in their handling of citizen complaints.
Among its nine Connecticut clients is the town of Hamden, which signed up with SeeClickFix a few months ago.
“I’ve made it a point to work hard on improving the transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness of Hamden’s local government,” Hamden Mayor Curt Leng said. “The launch of SeeClickFix is a major step in this endeavor.”