from the good-luck-with-that dept
As our Canadian readers surely know, Toronto has a weird relationship with its current mayor, Rob Ford. I won’t get into all the details, but basically he’s a bit of a clown, elected by outlying semi-suburban neighbourhoods and roundly hated by most people downtown (except the city press, for whom he is an endless source of mockable quotes and photos). Among his many, many controversial initiatives as mayor is an anti-graffiti push that has come under fire for indiscriminately targeting authorized street art alongside actual vandalism (including the removal of one mural that was actually commissioned and paid for by the city itself). Apparently he’s just as clueless about technology as he is about art, because as reader abc gum sends in, he’s now asking people to report graffiti with an iPhone app—which costs money.
Taking the city’s battle to clean up Toronto digital, Rob Ford visited a lane way near St. Clair and Lansdowne to unveil a new mobile app that lets citizens report unwanted graffiti instantly. Instead of coughing up for a phone call, smart phone users can now snap a picture and whisk it off to 311 for processing.
“This is as efficient as it gets,” remarked Ford at press conference earlier today. “This will make it easier than ever to report graffiti vandalism and help keep the city spotless.
The app, which costs $1.99 (and is currently only available for iPhone), lets Apple smartphone users send photographs directly to the city with a request to remove of the offending material. If the property owner fails to clean up the tag, the city will – so they say – step in and bill the owner for the work.
Uh-huh. So instead of “coughing up” a phone call to the city information line, Rob Ford is hoping people will cough up two bucks (not even 99 cents?). And not just any people—the iPhone wielding, app downloading demographic that is his biggest enemy and the least interested in fighting graffiti. Whether it’s pitched as a useful service for citizens or a request that they do their civic duty, slapping a price tag on it makes it little more than a joke.
Perhaps the most telling thing is that the app is built on the Open311 API that Toronto (among other cities) uses to provide access to city services—and yet nobody else seems to be bothering to try to build a graffiti reporting app. If there was a demand for it, there would be a swarm of developers working on it, and they probably would have beaten the city to the punch. Somehow I doubt that a two-dollar app is going to make people suddenly realize they’ve wanted this all along.