Honolulu 311 app gets mixed reviews

Published  6:17 PM HST Sep 10, 2012
Honolulu 311 ScreenShot
HONOLULU -

The Honolulu 311 smartphone application was launched by the city Jan. 31 as an accurate, cost-effective way to report complaints, from broken street lamps to stored property violations. The app uses GPS technology and pictures to pinpoint the location and description of what's being reported.

But more than seven months after the free app appeared on the market, online reviews have been mixed. Of the 24 reviews that are posted, at least 12 are negative.

One poster going by the user name ammbooth wrote, "App is very slow and freezes regularly. It's a waste of resource by the city of Honolulu."

Gordon Bruce, director of the city's Information Technology Department, said freezing issues related to Honolulu 311 are more than likely caused by the type of smartphone being used, not the application itself.

"Whether you've got a $300 Android, or a free Android, you can well imagine you get what you pay for," said Bruce. "Freezing could be the device, it could be the carrier (or) it could be an application that's being called within the device. It could be a number of things."

Other complaints about the smartphone application relate to how the city responds to reports that are issued.

Another user identifying herself as Meghan Chun said she reported a stored property violation in a residential area, but the city failed to take action.

"I reported it over two weeks ago, the status on the report says closed," wrote Chun. "The stored property has doubled now and getting worse!"

Gayle Haraguchi, whose Customer Services Department is charged with filtering reports received through Honolulu 311, said complaints over reports being closed are simply a matter of verbiage, which the city is working to correct.

Haraguchi said when a Honolulu 311 status report says "closed," all it means is that her department has received the complaint and forwarded it to the proper city agency for resolution.

"Technically it's closed, but for the public it isn't closed," said Haraguchi. "So, when it says it's closed, that was more of an internal communication."

Other complaints about Honolulu 311 focus on the fact potholes cannot be reported on.  Haraguchi said that's because the city still lacks the proper filtering software to determine if a pothole is on a state or city road.  However, she said potholes would eventually be added to the current list of 10 categories.

"It's coming and it's on the horizon, so hopefully in due time we'll have that as well," she said.

As of last Friday, the city had received 3,107 complaints through Honolulu 311, or an average of 14 per day. Nearly a quarter of the reports, a total of 697, were listed under the category of "other," which is where complaints about pot holes end up.

Bruce said the Honolulu 311 software has drastically reduced the cost or taking complaints from the public, from $6 per phone call to just over 60 cents.

"Do the math," said Bruce. "We're giving the citizen another way to get their request to us, so that we can jump on it as fast as we possibly can."

The city also didn't pay much to get Honolulu 311 up and running.  Subcontractor CitySourced was paid $12,000 to get the smartphone app off the ground.  The city will pay the company the same amount every year to maintain the software and make improvements.

Most recently, the city worked with the University of Hawaii to add coqui frogs to the list of categories that can be reported. On Wednesday, the Oahu Invasive Species Committee is urging residents to use the app from 7:30 to 8 p.m. to record any coqui mating calls.

And of course, not all reviews for Honolulu 311 have been negative. However, even those writing a positive post can't help but take a shot at the city.

Someone going by the user name Golpher45 wrote:

"App works as advertised and did everything that it said it would do. The City and County on the other hand is a different matter entirely."

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