City should stop making an app for that, says councillor

The city may have gotten a little app-happy since it started developing new ways to offer city services on smart phones, says Coun. Andrew Knack.

Coun. Andrew Knack wants to know if the city has gone overboard on app development

Ward 1 Councillor Andrew Knack shows off the 311 app last summer. He questions whether the city now has too many apps. (Leah Larocque/CBC)

The city may have gotten a little app-happy since it started developing new ways to offer city services on smart phones, says Coun. Andrew Knack.

“I’m not sure why we’re in a rush to create so many apps,” Knack said.

The city only started releasing smartphone apps last year. Now, whether you need to find a gym, a bus, make a 311 complaint, or identify weeds; there’s an app for that.

The new transit app is the city’s latest release, which was greeted with poor reviews and has only a two star rating on the Apple App Store.

“There are examples of apps like the ETS Live To Go, which was developed externally, which, quite frankly in my opinion, is terrible,” Knack said.

Even as he asked staff to investigate the issue at city hall on Tuesday, a press release arrived in his inbox announcing a new feature on the recreation centre app.  

“It just justified the need for this inquiry, because I think this brings us up to six or seven applications already,” he said.

Knack questions the time and money spent developing all these applications, but Maria Schrijvers, director of 311, said her department’s app is working.

“The public has really given us feedback that they like how convenient, how simple, and how easy is it to use,” she said.

The 311 app, which has been one of the city’s most successful so far, has been downloaded about 12,000 times.

Schrijvers said her department plans to keep developing the application with new features.

The city’s open-data initiative may change the city’s approach to app development, as more citizen app creators find new ways to use the data. Andrew Knack said their efforts may make city apps obsolete.

“Lets empower those people to do that with the information available,” he said.

Knack asked city staff to report back on the total number of apps under development, and how much they cost.

The city refused to release the cost of the existing apps until the report goes before council.

How often do you use the city's apps? 

ETS Live To Go

Released Dec. 10, 2014
What it does: Get real-time information for ETS Smart Bus routes, as well as scheduled information for all other routes. 

Edmonton Police Service Mobile

Released: Oct. 16, 2014
What it does: Receive alerts and news from the Edmonton Police Service, report a crime, or find the nearest police station. 

(City of Edmonton)

Released: June 28, 2014
What it does: Report concerns to the city and receive alerts on the status of your request.

Alberta Weed Spotter

Released: June 24, 2014
What it does: Identify weeds that are regulated under the Alberta Weed Control Act.

City of Edmonton Rec Centres

Released: March 18, 2014
What it does: Find drop-in program schedules by date, location and instructor, and add classes to your calendar.

(Source: Apple App Store)


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