Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting


Are you ready to start reporting street problems using your smartphone? Install one of the apps listed below. 

The City of Chicago launched its public Open 311 application interface in October allowing residents to quickly make a report, online or with a smartphone, bypassing the lengthy process of calling. App developers are now able to build programs that interact with the City of Chicago’s 311 database, created in 1997, via the Open 311 application interface to provide a faster and richer user experience. While such a process could have been established years ago, we’re happy to have it in Chicago now.

Currently only 14 service request types are available (see list below), which were said to be among the most commonly requested services. The application interface (known to programmers as “API”) was developed in part by Code for America fellows who researched the 311 implementation here and interviewed myriad users (alderman, city employees, operators, neighbors) in February and were coding all the way up until the last week of October. The undertaking has led to a great outcome, shaking up the tedious process of asking for a city service.

Rob Brackett, one of the four Code for America fellows to work on this project in Chicago, came to a recent Hack Night event at 1871, a tech hub at the Merchandise Mart, to showcase the city’s and fellows’ progress (slideshow). Two city staffers – Kevin Hauswirth (social media director in the Mayor’s Office) and Ryan Briones (IT director at the Department of Innovation and Technology, DoIT) – attended to join the discussion with civic coders and designers about the future of 311 and the Open 311 API. We – the public, really – were invited to contribute our own code updates for the city’s Open 311 website on the social coding website called GitHub.


My service request as submitted to the city’s new 311 website (it currently accepts 14 service types).  Continue reading Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting

Street issues, 311, and apps: tying them all together – part 1


Imagine photographing with your smartphone this metal plate that’s supposed to cover the sewer at Bloomingdale Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue and immediately uploading it to the City’s 311 system for fixing. That’s the power of Open311. (It’s finally being repaired.) 

311 is a phone number and a service request management system that the City of Chicago operates to give information to citizens (about services the city provides) and collect information from them (about situations that need fixing).

311 was implemented in 1999. In 2011, 12 years later, it’s not yet possible to make a request online and receive a tracking number (called an SR number for “service request”). I know there are apps and platforms in other cities that allow for a more modern way to collect and submit requests for service. This year I read that Code for America would hire young programmers to come to Chicago and “convert” the old 311 to what’s called Open311. Continue reading Street issues, 311, and apps: tying them all together – part 1