We tend to think of our councils and other public sector organisations as there to deal with the physical things we need them to do, such as collecting our rubbish, keeping the maintaining street lights and ensuring our roads are in good order.
For them to do this isn't just a case of manpower and equipment - it's also about research and data.
Up until now the role of monitoring the local area has purely been the responsibility of the public sector organisation and its employees however, with the advent of smart phones the ability of the public themselves to help with this has become a reality.
Apps provide Local Government with a straightforward way for citizens to interact and help with their councils,police and other services. They can cut the costs and provide the public with what they want in a more immediate way.
Councils stand to gain a lot from doing more with apps.
One which many of us may have already used is the simple complaint form to report a missed waste bin collection but the list is growing and they are becoming more advanced in how the technology on the citizens phone is used.
Imagine your smart phone could record every pothole you hit while you are in your car… and then get the council to fix it. This is what the citizens of Boston, Massachusetts, can do thanks to a mobile app called Street Bump.
The app uses accelerometer and GPS data from mobile phones owned by volunteers to spot wherever a bump occurs in the course of a vehicle trip.
Single bumps are ignored, but if a bump gets recorded several times in the same place by different mobiles then a road crew is sent to fill in the hole. Some councils in the UK are looking at or have already implemented similar schemes.
Another public annoyance is fly-tipping and again using GPS data and uploaded photos, councils can be notified of these instances far quicker and more efficiently than in the past.
An app already exists to do this - it is called "Love Clean Streets".
More entertaining apps are also being used by some tourist bodies where they turn an individuals smart phone into their very own personal tourist guide around historical areas and monuments. The York Hologram tour is one worth looking at as an example.
We are also starting to see some public sector organisations make their own data available to third party developers to provide relevant services. A good example of this are the many timetable apps now available for the London Transport network after TFL made their timing data available.
The key difference is that in the past, users could only be reached or have access to this information when seated in front of a computer. Now mobile apps allow services to be delivered almost anywhere, any time. It really is a case of being able to reach them when they get lost in the middle of nowhere, or they can reach you...