Kent mobile app links residents to city government

Alyssa DeGeorge

Kent residents now have access to their city on the go. The City of Kent Ohio free mobile app was released as a part of efforts to utilize new technologies and social media to connect Kent residents to the city government.

The app, available for Androids and Blackberrys, features city contact information, maintenance request capabilities, text notifications and a calendar of events. The city manager’s office is working to make it available for the iPhone.

“We’ve been trying to become more progressive when it comes to connecting to our citizens,” said Suzanne Robertson, the executive assistant to the city manager.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, the City of Kent has 490 likes on Facebook and 653 followers on Twitter. City manager Dave Ruller updates Kent’s WordPress blog regularly. A mobile application seemed like the natural next step.

“Especially with all of the students here, it’s just a great way for us to connect with all residents,” Robertson said.

Robertson and Ruller created the city app through Local Free Apps. Other Ohio cities such as Springboro, Centerville and West Carrollton provided inspiration with similar apps created through the same developer.

A $500 set-up fee and $720 a year came from the general operating budget of the city manager’s office to create the app.

Robertson said she has received positive feedback from the public since the app became available. As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, there have been 328 downloads.

Ruller described some of the thought that went into developing the mobile app on his Kent360 blog. He said one of his favorite features is the text notification system.

“The idea would be that when we have some pressing community news alert, we can send out a mass text message to anyone that subscribes to the service. We plan to keep the usage of that to emergency only — at least for awhile until we see how well it is received,” he said.

The maintenance request capabilities of the app have already proven successful. Robertson said users have reported broken streetlamps and crosswalk signs.

“If [someone’s] driving down the road at 11-o-clock in the evening and see a pot hole, they can put in a maintenance request,” she said. “ It’s all about customer service and improving how we connect with our citizens.”

When someone reports a problem through the mobile app, the complaint goes to Robertson who forwards it to the appropriate person.

The mobile app is a good way for the city to connect with the youthful population that comes from the university, she said, but the practicality of it would make it useful for any city.

“I think a lot of cities will eventually be headed this direction,” Robertson said. “I think it’s important anywhere to reach citizens as easy as possible and as efficient as possible.”

Contact Alyssa DeGeorge at [email protected].