'Appy' new year for access to services

By on 11/01/2011 in News

Birmingham City Council services such as housing, waste collection, street reporting and transport can now be accessed via an iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, with the launch of a brand new free app.

Birmingham's 'Looking Local' service, developed four years ago by Digital Birmingham, is part of a nationwide initiative to make local authorities easier to access and is already available via interactive digital TV , pc, wii, online and via standard web-enabled mobile phones.

With the growth in smartphones more and more people are choosing to access council services directly through their mobile.

The new free-to-download app gives residents the functionality of the TV and web applications, with options including finding out about bus and train services and searching for jobs and health information as well as council services.

The 'Report It' feature – which lets people report everyday problems like  fly-tipping, potholes and anti-social behaviour – is especially suited to the iPhone as it allows the user to map where the problem is, attach a photo and comment. This is then passed directly to the council so it can be dealt with promptly.

With more than 12 million iPhones in the UK, the app was a logical progression for the Looking Local service which now covers over 125 local authorities, housing associations and partner organisations as well as a number of national services.

Birmingham's Looking Local TV service - available on Sky and Virgin Media - is the country's most popular with 126,000 hits per month and a number of unique features including online school admissions.

“With the potential introduction of the new localism bill, it is important that we have communication channels that meet our citizens' needs,” said Cllr Paul Tilsley, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, who heads up the Digital Birmingham partnership.

“This will ensure two way dialogue and consultation on issues affecting Birmingham people.”

Steve Langrick from Kirklees Council, which owns and manages Looking Local, said:

“Looking Local has been publishing public sector services on mobile phones for over four years now, so we felt it important to extend our offer for the smartphone, with an initial 'app' for the iPhone.

“This now means that our 125+ public sector partners can use the app to deliver their services without needing to incur expensive development costs or duplicate resource and effort.”

ENDS (381 words)

For press enquiries, please contact: Mary Whitehouse, betterpr, tel: 01527 881965, fax: 01527 881985, email: mary@betterpr.co.uk

Note to editors

Digital Birmingham is a Birmingham City Council initiative and a strategic partnership of private, voluntary and public organisations throughout the city. It aims to ensure Birmingham is widely recognised as a leading European digital city and ensure that the benefits of digital technologies are available to all in the city. For more information visit www.digitalbirmingham.co.uk.

Accessing Looking Local:
•    via dedicated iPhone app: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/looking-local/id409806455?mt=8
•    on web-enabled mobile phone at lookinglocal.gov.uk
•    on Virgin, press the interactive button, select 'News and Info' and then select 'Looking Local'.
•    on Sky, Go to Channel 539 and press RED
•    on the Wii or PC, insert lookinglocal.gov.uk into the browser.

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  1. Chris says:

    Bit disappointed the council has chosen to focus web development on the iphone/pad platform – pretty much the most expensive phone on the market. Doesn’t exactly help open up access to those who are most in need of being able to access council services. Sure it’s very exciting for all the creative types with their brand new smartphones who have these ideas, but perhaps a cross platform mobile web platform, like the google mobile suite of tools, would have been a better place to spend the council’s limited resources.

    • Kris K says:

      Chris,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      As mentioned in the release, the looking local service is already available via web-enabled mobile phones, optimised for viewing on a mobile.

      Users just need to type lookinglocal.gov into their mobile’s internet browser. The iOS app is just the latest route for accessing the council – you can get it on interactive TV (Virgin and Sky), the Wii, PC, and any other mobile that can access the internet.

      We must also point out that the app isn’t actually designed by BCC – Birmingham is one of many councils that sign up to the service designed by Looking Local, who control the routes to access. Birmingham merely supplies the local content.

      Kris

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