Apps could be the door to an open community

Apps could be the door to an open community

October 12th, 2011 by Jennifer Bardoner in Local Regional News

The now-common expression "There's an app for that" may soon apply to an arena commonly thought of as complex and even closed off: government.

From an app that connects willing citizens with city maintenance needs to one that calculates all the factors of taking the bus, driving or biking to a particular location at a particular time to choose the best overall option, the possibilities are endless.

The public is invited to bring ideas and questions to a roundtable discussion concerning what is being called the Open Chattanooga initiative Oct. 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at CreateHere. Those who form teams to tackle the technologically advanced approach to community could win $2,500.

A Google form now online shows ideas already in the works. Participants must sign up there prior to the event.

"We are looking forward to reviewing the Google doc with everyone's shared ideas, resources and new solutions," said CreateHere's Teal Thibaud. "It is our hope that on Oct. 12 we can identify overlapping ideas, government needs and create teams around what we can go to work on."

Those who wish to participate in the challenge will pitch their ideas Nov. 3 from 6-9 p.m. The winning team will then launch its idea the weekend of Nov. 11-13, following the format of CreateHere's business startup program called 48 Hour Launch, which will continue to foster Open Chattanooga after CreateHere ceases to exist at the end of the year.

Since Chattanooga STAND, another CreateHere initiative, is providing the prize money, Thibaud said those who utilize the survey's data and results for idea generation will be more likely to qualify. The results, which found education and crime to be Chattanoogans' main concerns, can be found online at

Councilman Andrae McGary, who has shown support of the new program, said he thinks the easiest and best way to test the approach locally is finding an easy way for people to really connect with 311, the city's resource line.

"The most difficult thing is possibly looking at the budget and making the budget more participatory," he said. "I'd love to see that action take place. I'm looking at actually connecting with graphic designers and developers about that."

The local initiative builds on similar efforts across the country as part of the Code for America. A recent lecture by project co-founder Jennifer Pahlka and hosted by CreateHere brought approximately 130 locals up to speed on the successes and lessons learned in other locales.

While the fledgling process h as already had positive results, Pahlka stressed that each new app is trial and error.

"Let's just get it started and see where it goes," McGary said. "Failure is not an option; failure is just part of the process. I've been following the open government initiative ever since D.C and the president really spearheaded a lot of what you see happening in New York and Seattle. Hopefully [the public] can see that if leaders are willing to take chances and fail, it's open."