click-to-fix example of photoFor my colleagues in the city of Lyon, I am trying to give them a reference for an app which permits citizens to identify and report on problems on the streets in very specific and convenient ways.  Here is how it might/should work:

  1. You spot a problem on the street, sidewalk or in public space more generally.
  2. Pull out your mobile with GPS (should also have some kind of work around for those who don’t have)
  3. You click to APP.
  4. Take pic of the problem area
  5. Communicate this with one click to the online software package/virtual control center.
  6. The center now knows who you are, where you were,  the time of transmission and the picture of the problem
  7. Provision also for comments.
  8. All of this gets channeled into an Open Map with the necessary dates and other key information, now available for all to see, including the city and respective responsible services.
  9. The latter may make a note about when and how the intend to repair (and if at all and then why if not).
  10. All of this is available for all to see freely.
  11. An occasional sweep-up of the map may be well advised and it is important to be clear as to who, how does it?

There are a number of things that exist along these lines but I do not have a clear view of them.  So if any of you out there can advise me and the city of Lyon about places to look for more, this would be most appreciated. (I would also like to do a piece in World Streets on this.)

For the records and if needed, my contact information: T. +339 8326 9459| M. +336 5088 0787  | E.   |  S. newmobility

PS. There is something along these lines in New Haven Connecticut which you can see at

# # #

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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  1. Richard Layman writes from Washington DC:

    i don’t use these things called “apps” (well, just the Car2Go app on my wife’s smartphone). However, many cities offer such. DC has one. So does Phoenix. I can’t keep up. But they probably are more “internal” in that the info is communicated to the city, but the cities don’t “publish” the kind of externally available map-based info that you are looking for.

    SeeClickFix is one such application that seems to do what you are looking for.

    Many newspapers have implemented it as well (or used to).

    In the US, the trade magazines _Government Technology_ and _Public CIO_ include many articles on mobile app related subjects including customer engagement.

    And there is a consortium of governments focused on this.

    (I have a piece on the general subject of the apps craze really being about the design process:

    Unfortunately I am not a GIS maven. I presume that the provider of the GIS platform that the City of Lyon uses is likely to have some ideas/examples from other jurisdictions also.

    ESRI is the major provider of such services and they have platform for development of mobile apps.

    It’s also an opportunity to “reach out to the computing community” and do a “hackthon” to develop the application. In Arlington County VA, the Mobility Lab project of Arlington County Transportation Partners has organized a few such events, although more focused on real time transit information.

    This is what I was talking about in my blog entry, not just the design process, or the sexiness of “apps,” but whether or not local governments in turn are opening themselves up for and to engagement.

    The famous paper about open source software development (“The Cathedral and the Bazaar”) has interesting relevance to citizen engagement and participatory democracy.

    It is important to get ahead of this, because it’s easy for developers to produce apps and sell them, and then there are a bunch of apps out there all trying to do the same thing and because none has critical mass, there isn’t the money to support them in an ongoing way. (That’s what happened with some of the initial apps developed out of such processes for NYC and other places.)

    Richard Layman

  2. Hi,
    In Spain, I can recommend you the app REPARACIUDAD.
    Haritz Ferrando

  3. From Morten Lange, Reykjavík

    Hi Eric,

    does roughly what you are requesting. And the company has partnered with some US cities / municipalities to integrate with their internal systems for service requests etc.

    A few issues have already been reported for France.

    Or more localised

    The Web interface takes some learning and getting used to, but reporting using a GPS-enabled smartphone is quite easy.

    Regards / Kveðja / Hilsen
    Morten Lange, Reykjavík

  4. From Dave Book, Portland.

    Eric, et al. –

    This is a great idea and I expect you’re already familiar with

    I’d thought about an idea like yours for an issue that came up when the City of Los Angeles identified that it had many miles of sidewalks that had never been surveyed and they didn’t have the money for the survey. I made some inquiries but never did anything with my idea.

    My idea was: the city would organize an app-developers challenge with a decent but not huge prize. The city should NOT do an RFP to hire one company but simply tell the app developers what they want and define the protocol for submitting it. This gets buzz going. When the app(s) are done (there could be more than one), the city organizes neighborhood groups to start surveying, assuming they have a vested interest in helping out their neighborhood.

    Given the prevalence of smartphones I would only allow smartphone or web uploading of info (no workaround as you suggest in your item 2). The website interface could simply reproduce the smartphone interface!

    One issue I tried to figure out was how to minimize duplicate reporting of the same pothole or sidewalk break. One way to do this might be that the app would present the user with a map of where they are which would show items already reported and enable the user to see the report and decide if they had something to add to it (perhaps the situation got worse or the rating was wrong or something…)

    Of course, the App may be the easiest part of the process. Developing the database, classification of type problem, the surveyor’s informal rating of the urgency of the problem, and of course, how the city responds to the repairs will be a real challenge!


  5. Hi Eric,

    totally agree with the idea of organizing a “hackaton” for this specific purpose.
    However, i think there is a relevant issue related to apps and the number of effective downloads; many of them seem very nice ideas but end up reaching a very small niche of users, so my suggestion is to link this “reporting function” to other existing mobility related applications (i. e. the local mobility agency or public transport company app?) or develop a local app for public services including different services and options (but this may take longer time and efforts).
    A good example for me could be the one of which is basically focusing on traffic information.

    Best, Gabriele

  6. Good morning, Eric (California time). The City of Glendale, California has an app like you describe up and running, I think in beta testing. I visited an old friend there who is not a street person in any sense over the holidays. When we were talking about one of my work-related projects and shabby streets he proudly showed off the app he signed up to use. He reports broken curbs and potholes just by taking a picture as in the image on your post. Simple, tagged with GPS to locate the photo, and one-click easy. Take care.

  7. Thanks to Robert Moskowitz for the heads-up

    Need to report a problem to the city? Santa Monica has an app for that.

    Gorequest Reporting troublesome potholes or unsightly graffiti is an arduous process that has long involved having to remember the intersection of the problem before eventually (or never) finding time to detail the annoyance in a letter to a council member — or, a more recent feature, in an e-mail.

    With an iPhone application Santa Monica launched in February, the city has made filing a complaint as easy as snapping a photo and tapping a few buttons on your cellphone.

    Since launching the GORequest iPhone app barely two months ago, the city has seen 179 mobile submissions. Those account for about 21% of all formal complaints.

    “We’re really hoping to see the number of communications in this manner increase substantially,” said Jory Wolf, chief information officer for the city, on the phone Tuesday. “It’s much easier for us to respond to them.”

    That’s because complaints formed on a cellphone tend to be concise. (Who wants to type on those small screens all day?) The city’s responders can also pinpoint exactly where the problem is located because photos are tagged with the gadget’s GPS location.

    Wolf estimates that problems are resolved in a third of the time it takes to respond to traditional submissions. The majority of issues reported using the iPhone involves “abandoned rubbish,” such as furniture, Wolf said.

    Santa Monica is paying $500 per year for the GORequest app after shopping around to two other makers of similar software. One of those was CitySourced, which didn’t submit the lowest bid but recently agreed to make an app for the city of Los Angeles for free.

    — Mark Milian

  8. Hey Folks,
    Ben from @SeeClickFix here. As many noted the SeeClickFix app works all over the world and we would love to work with the City of Lyon. If you have an interest in bringing open data smartphone reporting apps to your city tweet @benberkowitz and I’ll help you out.


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