Gainesville residents who want to report issues such as dead tree limbs or potholes don’t have to track down the proper city department or make a phone call to voice their concerns. There’s an app for that.
myGNV, formerly known as 311GNV, launched in 2015 and functioned as a resource in which users could input their concerns regarding the city, and the information would be forwarded to the appropriate city department.
Jacqueline Stetson, director of citizen-centered design and project manager for myGNV, said, “311GNV is non-emergency reporting, and the new app encompasses much more than that.”
Since its transition this year to myGNV, the app is being updated with new features on top of being a tool to report beautification and functionality issues in the city. Users can upload a photo of their concern if needed and can also see the status of their report, as well as all other reports filed.
Originally, only three city departments were able to receive reports. As of the update launch on Wednesday Oct. 9, there are now seven city departments connected with the app, and the report types available have increased from 18 to 33. A few of the added report types include pipe leaks, dead animals, tree limbs, sewage and garbage pick-up.
There have been 8,000 reports submitted through the app so far.
According to Stetson, there have been 5,123 downloads from the Apple Store, and 546 downloads from Android. The app currently has approximately 1,821 accounts being used, or about 1% of Gainesville’s population.
The funds for this app had been approved by the city commission and come from the strategic initiatives budget. According to Stetson, the total cost of the update for this year was $12,918.50, including $2,500 for rebranding.
Small updates have been made since 2015, such as faster loading and map interactivity and functionality, but nothing to the extent of the most recent update.
When the app was 311GNV, the user had to find the right city department for their problem in order to voice a concern. This often led to the wrong city department having to get the report to the correct department. Now, the reports can be filed by category, which Stetson says is more intuitive and user-friendly, and are then forwarded to the proper city department.
Elliot Welker, 29, is a biotech incubator manager at Sid Martin Biotech. He had the 311GNV version of the app but hadn’t used it in months.
“I downloaded the app to inform the city of infrastructure, safety and service issues in my neighborhood.” Welker said. “I don’t have to go to City Hall or be left on hold to report a streetlight that is out or a crosswalk in disrepair.”
Welker has yet to use the myGNV version of the app, but hopes the updates will improve the app effectively and said it is important for the city to always be updating their means of communicating with the public
“We need as many people as possible participating in improving our city to fight blight in our streets,” Welker said.
Gainesville residents can also pay bills through the application — including those for Gainesville Regional Utilities, traffic tickets and parking meter fees. When a user tries to pay via the app, they will be redirected to the home website of the company they are trying to pay.
The only user information the app has is the information the user chooses to input. Only an e-mail address is required to make an account. The location of the user’s residence is also unknown, only the location of a report is tracked, and reports can be submitted anonymously.
A transportation section displays bus routes and live traffic cameras.
Other additions include the ability for users to view available jobs in Gainesville, the city departments directory as well as voting information.
There is a city commission designated section where users can see a list of the city commissioners, live stream city commission meetings or a state of the city address. The app provides the city’s social media accounts and news releases, along with public data such as budgets and spending.
Shelby Taylor, the director of communications for the city, said the app is a “one-stop shop” for Gainesville residents.
Stetson presented the app’s updates, rebranding and a demo Thursday at a Gainesville City Commission meeting.
A meeting attendee voiced concerns that Gainesville, besides college students, does not have much of a tech-savvy population and would find the app hard to use. Others made their approval known.
“Everyone has smartphones now,” city commissioner Gigi Simmons said. “We’re meeting them where they are.”
Commissioner David Arreola said that plenty of college students make memes about something they see in the community that should be improved.
“Don’t make a meme about it, you can report about it,” Arreola joked.