It seems like everyone is telling me about the latest app these days. It comes with the territory of being the “tech guy” on a team of journalists.

Even Honolulu’s mayor Peter Carlisle mentioned one in his State of the City speech Thursday.

“We have launched the Honolulu Three One One mobile app, which allows citizens to submit requests for service to the city with their smart phone by taking a photograph and sending it, along with GPS data on the location to the city. We have received more than five hundred and twenty five reports on abandoned vehicles, broken streetlights and signs, illegal dumping, and uplifted sidewalks, tree and plant maintenance and storage of property in public spaces.”

Not a bad start considering Honolulu 311 launched less than a month ago. The mayor did a good job explaining what the app does. It’s simple and it gets to the point quickly by design.

As soon as you launch the app you’re prompted to “Submit a Report.” The application allows you to take a photo and describe the problem you’re reporting on. Then by utilizing GPS technology, it pinpoints your report’s exact location. Essentially the city is creating a team of citizen watchdogs that monitor the streets for issues that need its attention.

Once the report is filed, you can track its progress in the comments section below each individual report. Scrolling through a few of them I saw a good number marked as “ReferredToDept” or “closed.” That makes it seem like the appropriate steps are being taken. I checked with a few friends to see if they had been using 311. I was surprised to find one who not only had filed an abandoned vehicle report, but said that the car was taken away after two weeks.


The city’s tech team seems to be moving in the right direction. They’ve pinpointed problem areas and are working with tech-minded people like Information Technology Deputy Director Forest Frizzell and Hawaii’s Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia.

Now that these tools are in place with others in the pipeline, it’s time for the city to focus on building the community of people who will use them and spread the word. It was good to hear that the city had received more than 500 reports. What I would have liked to hear was how many had been taken care of.

It’s those kinds of success stories that will encourage other people to try the app.