Talking 2016 Goals on KOB-TV

APPCityLife’s CEO, Lisa Abeyta, joined City of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, to visit with NBC KOBTV’s Erica Zucco about the city’s goals for 2016.

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How One CivicTech Partnership Will Revolutionize Access to Mobile for Governments

A newly formed partnership between APPCityLife and Accela promises to completely change the way cities and people connect through mobile by providing access for the first time to governments across North America to a revolutionary mobile publishing platform developed specifically to address the unique needs of governments.

Why is this significant?

Consider this: in the past 90 days, there have been over 1.51 billion visits to federal government websites, and over one third of those visits have been on a mobile device or tablet. This doesn’t include the millions of visits to city, county and state government websites – or the thousands of government agencies whose teams access their own internal systems via mobile. It is worth noting that within this significant growth in mobile traffic that 7% of US adults – mostly lower income, young adults and minorities – are smart-phone dependent, meaning they rely solely on their smart phone for internet access.

While most government agencies and leaders are keenly aware of the growing demand and need to deploy mobile, finding solutions which meet the unique needs of government has not been easy or affordable.

It is one of the many reasons why a partnership between Accela and APPCityLife is generating interest within the civictech industry.

Accela has been a leader in delivering productivity and engagement software to governments for over thirty years, serving over half of America’s largest cities and over 2000 communities worldwide. The company’s Civic Platform helps bridge citizen and government engagement by connecting the public sector, citizens, partners and developers. The Civic Platform already includes a collection of native mobile apps developed by software engineers for government agency field staff and citizens.

APPCityLife was an early innovator in open data and serves a wide variety of government clients including public transit, cultural services, education and nonprofits. The company’s Mobile Publishing Platform, CityLife, can be used by individuals with no programming skills and supports cross-platform development for iOS, Android, wearables, and beacons. Templates created on the CityLife platform are easily customized to meet the unique branding, workflow or data integration needs of a project, meaning government teams can take ownership of mobile solutions and deploy new sophisticated apps in days instead of weeks or months.

accela_phoneIn addition to rapid development and deployment of mobile apps, the CityLife Platform also provides additional benefits to government agencies.

  • CityLife’s ODS (Open Data Server) normalizes data on the fly from a wide variety of formats for easy mobile consumption.
  • Robust analytics help agency staff to collect meaningful data for data-driven design and reporting.
  • Targeted push notifications allow agency staff to send notices to the entire audience of a mobile app or only to a defined subset of users.
  • CityLife’s unique approach to streaming cloud-based apps resolves the ever-growing challenge of governments to provide communities with access to a wide variety of mobile apps without requiring additional app downloads.

Through the newly formed partnership, the CityLife Mobile Platform now serves as an extension of Accela’s Civic Platform and enables non-technical government staff to take to market agency-specific mobile apps. Instead of starting from scratch, teams can expedite development by using templates and features designed specifically for Accela’s Civic Platform. And most exciting, new solutions created by one agency using CityLife can easily be templated and shared among jurisdictions to foster innovation.

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Lisa Abeyta, Founder and CEO, APPCityLife

APPCityLife’s Founder and CEO explains what this might look like to the average citizen.“If I want to have a garage sale, like most cities, mine requires a permit. Right now, securing that permit requires a trip to City Hall where I wait in one line to fill out the form and then wait in a different line to pay a cashier.”

Abeyta explains that the process is more than just inconvenient. “This creates an unnecessary burden for citizens cannot leave their job during the hours the city is open for business. When that process is transformed into a mobile app where anyone can log in day or night, submit their application and even pay the fee in minutes, it is not only far more convenient, it can drive higher compliance rates and revenue for the city. It’s a win for everyone involved.”

While the need for custom app development certainly still exists, the opportunity to quickly share and deploy mobile apps among agencies finally makes it possible for governments to meet the growing demand for mobile. Through access to a platform designed specifically to meet their needs, agencies can deliver easier access to services and information for both the public and internal government teams. The possibilities are endless – and that changes everything.

Read more about the APPCityLife / Accela Partnership

 

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How Albuquerque’s Civic IT Innovation Is Catalyzing Change

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How do you implement twenty years’ worth of innovative technology in record time?

Start with a Mayor that has the innovative vision and drive to upgrade years’ worth of obsolete, archaic business systems and processes while simultaneously creating an innovative, entrepreneurial ecosystem that spurs community economic development.

Shortly after taking office, Mayor Richard Berry of the City of Albuquerque, recognized the need to modernize and create efficiencies in how the city works internally and provides services to its citizens. Through his initiatives, Albuquerque became an early innovator of the smart city movement, establishing one of the world’s first open data policies and portals as well as promoting unique purchasing processes which spurred departmental adoption of new technologies and made it easier to collaborate with startups and innovators in civic technology.

I was thrilled when our Albuquerque-based startup, APPCityLife, was invited to collaborate with the city prior to the open data launch. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of seeing those efforts pay off with significant savings to the city, better processes for addressing the needs of citizens, and greater transparency. It has also generated broader community interaction and served as part of the catalyst of change for the city’s entrepreneurial community, resulting in commitments and collaboration with organizations like Living Cities, the Kauffman Foundation, Bloomberg Cities, and Code for America.

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Peter Ambs, CIO, City of Albuquerque, NM

I recently visited with Peter Ambs, the City of Albuquerque’s CIO. He is the visionary behind the overhaul of the city’s IT infrastructure as well as the implementation of innovative initiatives such as creating an open data portal. The challenge to innovate, he says, began from the top.

“In the very beginning of Mayor Berry’s tenure, he made it clear that we were to embark upon a mission of improving and optimizing the inefficient and obsolete business systems that were in place and creating a drag on the organization,” says Ambs.  “We were also to create an atmosphere and culture of innovation that would radically transform the government/citizen relationship – we needed to better connect our citizens to City government.”

Lofty goals are important places to start, but turning goals into completed milestones is no easy task. Ambs describes that process. “To do this, we have put digital processes at the core of how we do business and provide city services. By upgrading and implementing functionality within the City’s business systems, we have been able to digitally streamline the Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement process to fully achieve automated workflow processes,” says Ambs. He says those upgrades are already paying off. “Payroll process times have been cut in half, and the time to compile and publish financial reports has been reduced by months.”

But it wasn’t just about upgrading; it was also about bringing in innovation, says Ambs.

“We performed the process improvements while innovating at the same time.  We needed to radically innovate while optimizing operations.  Again, Mayor Berry was central to this as we stood up the transparency and open data portals to match his vison of openness and accountability in government.  By publishing ‘open data’, we spawned the dawning of ‘civic tech’.  We moved data that had traditionally been stored behind city firewalls and made it available to the public. By making this data available, citizens and civic tech developers can take this data and synthesize it into meaningful information which helps create a smarter and more livable city.”

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I also had the opportunity to hear Amb’s view of our own company’s role in the city’s adoption of civic tech. “APPCityLife was at the forefront of this movement, creating a portfolio of civic apps for Albuquerque.  A good example is ABQ RIDE, which provides real-time bus location and route schedule information and has transformed how our citizens receive information about our public transportation system.” The app also features route-specific filtered push notices for delays, emergencies or route changes and bike route mapping.

The city worked with several early civic tech startups as they explored new avenues of innovation, including See Click Fix, who collaborated with the city to deliver 311 services to citizens via a mobile app. “The ABQ311 app is another example of how we have digitally connected citizens to City services,” says Ambs. “Early on, Mayor Berry told me he wanted an app where he could take a picture of a situation that needed a City service  – like a pothole or graffiti – and have that ticket entered and assigned to the City Department responsible for remediation.  We now have that app and many more that provide information and access to City services and amenities.”

Ambs’ long-term plan has allowed the city to move quickly.

Says Ambs, “We adopted the attitude of ‘two-speed’ IT, where one IT area focuses on the running of the business, keeping the lights on, and the other area focuses on innovation and disruptive technologies.  By bifurcating IT this way, we have the ability to go fast (innovative) while not jeopardizing the business of running the City.  We also tend to get the buy-in and sponsorship much better when the business owners (the Departments) own and sponsor their innovation projects; IT becomes more of a facilitator.  A good example of this is our Planning Department, running and owning the new application to allow for online permitting, licensing, and business registrations.”

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It was because of the city’s creative approach to innovation projects that our own company was able to build a globally-focused end-to-end mobile platform  for civic app development.  Through apps like ABQ BioPark, which features cool new tech like beacon integration and Roadrunner Food Bank‘s game-changing food finding app, we’ve continued to add civic-focused features. The platform’s rapid prototyping and open source templating features make it possible to quickly and easily integrate mobile and spur innovation to a wider network of cities and govtech companies.

What is most exciting is that Ambs says open data is just the beginning.”We are just now scratching the surface of what open data and innovation can do to create a smarter and more livable city,” he says. “We want to see Albuquerque and its citizens enabled with a raised digital quotient that will sustain innovation such that civic tech companies such as APPCityLife and others can flourish and provide economic mobility to our citizens.”

It’s been a privilege to have been even a small part of the changes happening in Albuquerque. Thanks to the committed efforts of many in our community, we’ve made the leap not just into the present but are moving full steam ahead into the future of civic tech.

This post also published on Huffington Post. Note: APPCityLife has worked with the City of Albuquerque since 2012.

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ABQ RIDE Helps You “Dump the Pump” with App’s Latest Features

ABQride1Sharing a client’s latest press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 18, 2015

ABQ RIDE Helps You “Dump the Pump” with App’s Latest Features

Celebrating National Dump the Pump Day with App’s new City Bike Map, as well as Metro Savings Calculator

ALBUQUERQUE – If you want to quickly find Albuquerque’s bike trails as you bike your way around the city, help is now just a smartphone app away. The ABQ RIDE app now features Albuquerque’s nearly 400 miles of bike trails, along with their proximity to ABQ RIDE stops. It’s just the newest of the app’s many features.

Just press on the “Live Tracking” feature of the app, then press on the bicycle icon.in the upper right hand corner. It will display the bike trails for the route requested. Both iPhone and Android users can use all these features to help them Dump the Pump on June 18, National Dump the Pump Day.

“The app’s new bike map feature makes it easier than ever before to bike and bus your way around Albuquerque for either work or pleasure,” said Mayor Richard J. Berry. “For this special Day and every day, we urge our customers with smartphones to download ABQ RIDE’s app and realize savings in different ways.”

Another way the app can help you Dump the Pump is to use the app’s Metro Savings Calculator feature. You can find it in the app by going to “Fares” and pressing on the feature labeled “What’s It Cost to Drive?” (You can also find the calculator on ABQ RIDE’s website on the left side of the webpage, or just go to http://www.cabq.gov/transit/metro-savings-calculator). Users input a few numbers such as mileage to and from work, the cost of a gallon of gas, monthly cost for parking, car payment, etc. and get a figure for potential savings over a year’s time

The ABQ RIDE app made its debut in June, 2012, when City of Albuquerque data sets were made available to the public by Mayor Berry’s Open Data Initiative; a program which encouraged the development of apps and services for public use. Since then, the app has been downloaded over 32-thousand times (as of May 31). It provides not only real time information about where buses are located, but other information such as bus and Rail Runner schedules and fares along with the aforementioned bicycle maps and savings calculator.

To get a free download of the ABQ RIDE App for your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android phone, go to http://www.myabqride.com and click on “Transit Mobile Apps” on the front page.

National Dump the Pump Day is organized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Communities all over the country, including Albuquerque are participating in the effort to demonstrate how public transit is the quickest way to beat rising gas prices. According to APTA, we typically spend one dollar out of every five dollars we earn on transportation; that after housing, fueling a car and maintaining it is likely our biggest expense.

“APTA’s statistics show that a two-person household can save an average of more than $10,000 a year by downsizing to one car and using public transportation,” said Bruce Rizzieri, Director of ABQ RIDE.

 

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ABQ RIDE is Albuquerque‘s principal form of public transportation. It boards 13 million passengers a year and logs a daily average of 160-Thousand Passenger Miles on its buses.

 

50 Years of Transit CMYK Logo resized for email

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How Urban Tech is Disrupting Government Procurement

IMG_6565I spent the past few days with our COO at the Smart City Startups Festival in Miami, Florida, interacting with some of today’s most visionary, innovative urban tech startup founders who are disrupting almost every facet of the urban landscape. All of the startups showcased at the summit have the potential of changing the future of our cities. Some are implementing solutions which are quite ingenious in their simplicity, like Loveland Technologies, which makes ownership of land parcels transparent (and raised funds through creative sales of inches of Detroit land parcels through “inchvestors”, and Vizalytics, which filters through the cacophony of data to help small businesses quickly understand what policies, work orders, or inspections will directly affect their business. Other showcased teams are immersed in big ideas like those of, BRCK, whose rugged tech is bringing internet access to remote regions of the globe. It was an incredible honor to have the opportunity to demonstrate how our own company, APPCityLife, is helping deliver powerful mobile apps in cities which can change the way people interact with their city, from being able to get to a job on time by using a real-time tracking app for transit to finding out about distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables at a local food bank.

IMG_3988But the invention of cool urban tech doesn’t mean it’s going to be available to you, the citizen, any time soon. One of the biggest barriers to getting this tech into the real world remains the challenge of navigating archaic government procurement policies. If you think waiting in the customer service line of a Department of Motor Vehicles is a practice in frustration, try pushing a single contract through almost any city government. But there is good news. Because the clamor for better tech is now coming from within and without government agencies, some civic leaders, organizations and entrepreneurs are exploring alternative paths to engage with urban tech startups.

Nonprofits like the Knight Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Living Cities, Bloomberg PhilanthropiesNew Cities Foundation as well as many others funding programs aimed at disrupting solutions for select issues such as education, entrepreneurship and economic development. In addition, organizations like Code for America have also helped to disrupt through advocacy, by forming brigades of volunteers within communities to address local issues, and by deploying carefully selected fellows into select cities each year to address a particular need. Other organizations, like Citymart, are focused on disrupting the procurement process itself. With several successes under their belt within the European community, the Barcelona-based company has opened an office in New York City’s Civic Hall and signed on several initial cities to participate in a series of challenges which invite innovative urban tech startups to submit solutions with the chance to move forward with a larger contract should an initial pilot prove successful.

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And then there are the city administrators who are choosing to disrupt the way they work with urban tech startups. One nugget of advice often shared by government administrators is for startups to work for free. I have to admit that the advice that startup founders should work for cities for free can be a bit disconcerting, if only because it is almost always given by someone who not only stands to benefit from free tech but is certainly not working for their own government agency for free. While this model does have its benefits, there are also drawbacks that must be taken into account. When a startup is delivering a service for free, they are far more likely to run out of cash and leave a government agency adrift with a non-working technology – and no one to hold accountable. Additionally, entering the market with a free model may help startups determine the willingness to use a technology, but that is not the same a willingness to pay for that same technology. When founders give away services to any customer, government or otherwise, it is very difficult to begin charging at some later date. We’ve seen this free-first model pay off in very big ways, but it takes setting up clear boundaries ahead of time as to what parts of service will be free, how long the free model will last, what next steps will be possible if initial free phase is a success, etc. When a free-first model can prove a startup’s ability to deliver and the city’s ability to save money or deliver services better, it can be an excellent opportunity to get a foot in the door and disrupt the status-quo. But when it is not set up with clear expectations and end dates, it can eat a startup’s budget with nothing to show for it.

Here are a few additional ways we’ve found to be successful in disrupting current procurement policies to get new urban tech into the hands of the people who need it. When startups devise business models which generate revenue from sources outside of government, it becomes a win-win for everyone around. In addition, proving future savings to a government agency can be a good way for urban tech founders to gain early customers. If new tech will streamline processes, improve efficiencies, or encourage citizens to embrace more affordable options – and if the startup can track the data needed to prove those cost savings, every sale after the initial pilot will be easier. And lastly, when founders take the time to understand the problems a city department is facing – what their biggest headache is within a specific task or as an agency – and when a startup can show that their tech will solve that problem, founders can gain the buy-in and willingness from the government to find money or babysit a contract through procurement processes to gain access to that pain-reliving solution.

Of course, the bigger issue is the procurement policies themselves. Most have not kept up with emerging civic tech. But we cannot afford to wait for politicians and legislators hash out the nuance of new policies. Working at the slow pace of policy change is not an acceptable solution for anyone. Until better procedures manage to gain enough votes to become law, those of us within the urban tech community must continue to disrupt not only the way cities interact with the people who live there but the way cities work with urban tech startups. As a society, we cannot wait for legislators to get up to speed and pass laws that make sense for this new world of smart cities – there is too much at stake. When we have the power to lift entire communities out of poverty by delivering better city services like reliable transit or helping deliver needed supports like food-finding apps to food banks, there is a moral imperative to find new ways to foster urban tech startups and deliver the successful solutions throughout the world.

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3 Ways Branded Mobile Apps Help Cities

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As initiatives go, Open Data is still in its infancy, with most early-adopters only two or three years out from the release of their first data sets. As the CEO of APPCityLife, a civic tech company supporting the delivery of those data sets into useful civic mobile apps and tools, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Open Data movement from those early days and have learned a bit about what has worked well for some of our early clients. Here are three reasons I believe that every city with an open data initiative should be producing and supporting official mobile apps from some of their own open data feeds.

High Quality Open Data

ABQride1One of our earliest open data projects was through a public/private partnership with the City of Albuquerque. As an early adopter, a major concern of the city’s administration was ensuring the open data produced would be consumable and useful to the public. The decision was made to release a flagship mobile app which would not only showcase the opportunities available to developers through the city’s new initiative but also vet the mobile-friendly formatting through the partnership with our team to develop the city’s flagship open data mobile app. The city’s Applications Development Manager, Mark Leech, was tasked with structuring the open data initiative by fostering collaboration from multiple agencies within the city to launch several data sets, including one of the nation’s first real time transit tracking data feeds. While the city’s open data team worked on the production and delivery of the data sets, the transit team worked with the University of New Mexico’s IT department to develop a mobile website and with our team to produce a mobile app – all consuming the same open data feed being readied for release to the public. Working with public and private entities to develop a website and an app from the same data ensured that the city’s new data would easily feed into other locally developed and national transit apps and websites.

And while it might seem like vetting data feeds for web and mobile viability would be an obvious strategy, it isn’t always. Despite a growing number of companies who are helping cities tool up for smart innovations including open data, such as Cisco, Accela, Socrata and Junar, the dearth of accepted global standards has resulted in each company and agency developing unique standards. Far too often, especially when agencies release data independently, data is released in the easiest way possible (which is rarely the best way possible). To counteract the crazy-making of constantly writing new API’s to address each uniquely formed open data feed integrated into our platform, our engineers developed a unique open data server which converts data feeds on the fly into consumable mobile format. It has solved the problem of normalizing data for our own clients, but the industry is still in flux with no easy resolution in sight.

The obvious long term answer is global standards governing open data, but the roadblocks sometimes seem insurmountable. Imagine being tasked with bringing to the table all of the major global players delivering a similar set of data such as restaurant inspections. While it may have seemed like a straightforward task to Yelp, Socrata, and other major players who came together last year to create a global format for delivering that single set of data to the public, news stories a year after the announcement indicate that creating the seamless standard will not be an easy or straightforward task. Not only do cities use a variety of rating systems which will make it challenging to integrate into a single reporting format, but many cities are still delivering their restaurant inspection data in the form of PDF’s, not at all mobile-consumable, if they are releasing the data at all. The push for a global standard will require major accommodations and expense to convert to a standard global reporting system. And when you consider the challenges faced with this single data set and extrapolate it out into the plethora of data being delivered by myriad agencies within thousands of cities across the globe, and one begins to grasp the level of difficulty ahead to create global standards for open data.

Our early involvement in open data has made us keenly aware of the challenges faced by developers who want access to data feeds for creative, innovative projects. One of the most expedient ways cities can help foster this creativity and innovation within the private sector is to produce data that is, at the very least, easily consumed in mobile format. And by producing official mobile apps from some of their own data sets, cities can ensure delivery into the private sector is seamless.

Branding and Reputation Management

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from our civic clients is their need to protect reputation and public trust. And while most of our clients have readily expressed their excitement upon discovering new apps and websites consuming their open data, they are also very careful to verify that the developers and companies using that data have not violated trademarks or made claims about affiliation with that agency. Because of the high level of scrutiny and governance faced by most agencies, having official channels of communication is often a must. By producing official mobile channels, agencies can provide on-the-go, instant information which their constituents can trust as accurate and reliable. One of our first experiences with this approach has been through collaboration with our client, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS).

Almost a year ago, the Washington Post reported that there had been 74 school shootings in 2014 alone. And a January, 2014, article in the New York Times described school lockdowns as having become so ordinary as to now be the new fire drill. With school communications teams grappling with such highly emotionally charged issues such as these, it becomes vital that the team find ways to control not only the messages being delivered to staff, parents, students and community, but to also find ways to provide information instantly in order to better manage emergency situations as they unfold.

It was with this specific goal in mind that we worked with the communications department within APS to develop the school’s official mobile app. Because of the sensitive nature of the data surrounding the housing and education of minors, open data wasn’t a viable option for the school. But through our collaboration, we were able to integrate open data such as maps with internal data feeds from the public school’s website to produce seamless, fingertip access to school information and messages. Through our platform’s filtered messaging dashboard, the school’s communication team now delivers push notices either district wide to all users or to the select devices which have opted in to receive push messages for a particular school. In this manner, the school can send official, trusted information directly into the hands of those individuals who need to receive it – and do so in real time.

While open data is serving a vital need to access information, and numerous apps are consuming this data in creative and unique ways which are changing the way we access information, it is important for cities to protect their own brand and messaging when and where it makes sense to do so. Not all open data is built for mobile consumption, and not every data set is useful as a tool, but there are several which we’ve found make a lot of sense for cities to produce as branded apps, including cultural services such as parks, zoos, aquariums, public art, museums and public events, as well as transit with push notices for issues affecting specific routes, department of corrections arrest and processes information, and, of course, public schools.

Cost Savings Help Defray Open Data Costs

ABQ RIDE team recognized for cost savings of over $100,000 through Open Data apps. Pictured: APPCityLife CEO, Lisa Abeyta, With ABQ Ride team, UNM web applications team and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

ABQ RIDE team recognized for cost savings of over $100,000 through Open Data apps. Pictured: APPCityLife CEO, Lisa Abeyta, With ABQ Ride team, UNM web applications team and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

One of the unexpected benefits of developing branded apps within a city, one that might have been missed had it not been for the careful tracking of data by the City of Albuquerque’s transit team, was the significant cost savings to the department. While the city incurred costs to develop and sustain the real time tracking data as well as to support their official mobile app, the agency also realized significant savings through the drop in far more expensive phone calls coming in to the city’s 311 system. Instead of using their cell phones to call an operator to find out where a bus was, riders were empowered through the release of the official mobile app to discover independently the location of the bus along their route. And because the transit department’s communications team sent filtered push notices to riders who had opted in to receive information about a specific route, riders were alerted in real time to accidents, road conditions or other mitigating factors which might delay or change the service along a specific route. Not only has the city announced significant savings through the release of the transit real-time open data but an increase in ridership as well.

Not every open data feed that is released is useful as an app, but when cities deliver official mobile apps from those data feeds where it can provide better access to information by users of civic services, the results can be invaluable far beyond convenience.

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Reimagining an App to Feed the Hungry

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When people ask me what we do at APPCityLife, I usually give them the 30-second elevator description: we are making it possible for people anywhere in the world to use our platform and open data information to create solutions and tools which solve problems within their own community.

But what does that actually mean? What does that look like in real life?

Let me share with you our morning to give you an idea what that looks like in real life.  Our team spent the better part of our morning with one of our oldest clients, Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. To give you an idea just how early they came on as a client, our college interns actually had nothing to show the nonprofit’s communications team. We had no apps delivered to the store yet and were truly selling an idea of what was to come. With a leap of faith and willingness to embrace an emerging technology, the team at Roadrunner Food Bank worked with us in those early days to produce one of the first apps released by APPCityLife.

Initially funded through a generous gift, we were excited to build an app for a nonprofit addressing such an important need in our community. But, in reality, mobile was so new in those early days that none of us really knew for certain what would or wouldn’t work, especially for a nonprofit like a food bank. Our teams finally decided the app’s primary goal was providing food drop off locations as well as notices about upcoming food drives and events. The app also promoted ways to volunteer and delivered information about legislation that could impact the hungry. Our focus made sense for the mobile industry in 2010. The assumption was that most of the early adopters were upwardly mobile and much more likely to help a food bank’s efforts to feed the hungry.

Over the past five years, the demographic of smartphone users has changed significantly to now span across a wide range of income levels from affluent to the most in need. Almost half of us (and in some cases more) now own smart phones – across income levels and ethnicities. It is expected that 2 Billion of us worldwide will own smart phones by 2016.  In response to these trends, we saw the opportunity to completely reimagine the food bank app. Instead of a tool focused only on growing food donations – still a vital need and part of the app – we are working with the innovative team at Roadrunner Food Bank to produce an innovative mobile tool which can deliver vital information to those within the community who are most in need of the food bank’s services.

As we sat together this morning and discussed the user interface design, back-end integration of data bases for continually updated information, and created a wish list of features, I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude that this is what I get to do with my days. Our team is comprised of dedicated, talented innovators who are passionate about imagining – and delivering – new possibilities through our innovative tech. We’ve spent five years building an incredibly powerful platform capable of bringing to market transit apps with open data real time tracking, e-ticketing, and beacon-integration as well as shop local apps with merchant-generated mobile coupons. In fact, one of our newest civic apps serves the public school community by delivering emergency messages which span the gamut from specific information for parents about a frightening situation unfolding at their child’s school to district-wide notices about inclement weather.

But to now take on convoluted, multi-faceted processes governing the collection and distribution of food to the needy – and change how the hungry are able to access needed help? That’s exciting stuff, especially when you consider that, in the process of addressing this need of our own local food bank, we’re creating a solution which can very easily impact how other food banks across the nation reach out to their own communities.

Not all days are this inspiring. But within our company, they happen far more often as we begin to serve clients far and wide. I cannot imagine how exciting it will be on the day when we are ready to open up our platform to communities across the globe so that individuals can begin to solve challenges they see within their own community. But for today, my heart is full and I have clarity that what we are doing matters. It  is worth the combined effort, sacrifice, time, and the commitment of our entire team which has made it possible to begin to empower others through civic tech that is changing the possibilities one app at a time. 

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