King County has a new mobile app that aims to make it easier for residents to reach local government services. As officials unveil the app this week, they’re highlighting its use in the fight against noxious weeds, for which it has so far been most fully developed.
King County has 17 specialists who work to stop the spread of new invasive species and poisonous plants that spread quickly, such as giant hogweed, tansy ragwort or poison hemlock. King County's program tracks dozens of weeds in five categories.
“We’ve really been working on this problem for about 20 years,” says Sasha Shaw, who’s with the county’s Noxious Weed Control Program. She says they’ve built up a pretty good communication system with the public, so many people know to get in touch.
“But right now, if somebody wants to report a weed, generally what they would do is call us and say, ‘somewhere in this road, I saw some weeds…’ And we don’t know exactly what weed it is, we don’t know exactly where they are.”
That’s where the new app, called "Connect," comes in handy. People with smartphones can use it to easily snap a picture and upload the image, along with the location. Specialists will have instant access to see if it’s an invasive plant and what kind of response is needed.
The reports can be made anonymously. Or, if contact information is provided, there’s the promise of a report back on what’s being done about the problem plant sited.
The app was developed in a hackathon with developers from Slalom and Microsoft. Jen Travis, Slalom design lead, says the app is a natural fit for the Noxious Weed Program. It offers a much more efficient way to get the data needed to the right experts at the county.
”This creates more of a real-time interaction that allows people to do this within minutes," she said.
It also provides a handy way to submit any kind of request or report to the county; a drop-down menu offers a choice of 12 categories, from "Animals" to "Transportation, Roads and Environment," with subcategories to appropriately route the contact form to the correct department.
The county hopes to expand the app for reporting of other issues, such as illegal dumping, needed road repairs or clogged storm drains.
You can download the app by searching your app store for "King County Connect." Look for the county logo image, a silouette of Martin Luther King, Jr.