In one of my recent courses I had the opportunity to create an application using AppStudio for ArcGIS as an assignment. This software allows you to create native applications (meaning apps that are created for use on specific platforms, as opposed to mobile web apps) without knowing any programming. Of course, if you have programming knowledge, you can use this software to fully customize any apps that you create. This software has built in connectivity with ArcGIS Online, where you can easily create a “Landing Page”, which is a web page where you can market all of the features of your app. The software also has the ability to create install packages (e.g. .exe files) for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and Apple IOS on demand, so you can test your app at any time. If you’re interested in trying out this software, you can get a license through subscription to the Esri Developer Network (ECCE student associates can sign up for free!).

For my app, I used one of the templates made available through ArcGIS Online and customized it thoroughly. I wanted to make an app that people could download and use to report problems in their community. The app I created allows people to take pictures, mark locations, and report details of damaged street lights. I called the app “Lights-Out”.

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Various screenshots of the app taken from my mobile device that showcase its different functionalities

Engaging citizens through applications such as this is something that various cities and municipalities have been looking into in recent years. Allowing people to report all of this information through an app allows for quick and easy documentation of infrastructure damage. For example, the City of Calgary, Alberta tells its residents to fill out online report forms for graffiti. Having access to an application on your mobile device that can do this just as effectively would drastically speed up restoration times, since people aren’t necessarily going to have their computers ready upon seeing graffiti. In conclusion, citizen engagement apps allow for detailed, quick, and convenient reporting of problems and should become more prevalent in our society.

By: Matt Brown, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Honours Environmental Sciences IV.