This page is meant to be a resource for champions of Open311 to make a convincing pitch to decision-makers. For city managment staff and/or city electeds.


What defines an Open311 System?

  • must it be read/write or can it be just read?
  • must it include all service requests? to what degree can it be filtered or cleaned before it’s published (aggregate data vs. individual requests vs. appropriate individual requests)
  • must it be an API or will downloadable data in a standard format suffice?
  • must it have a means by which users can improve the system (through feedback, etc.)?

Explaining the Benefits

We identified 3 concrete benefits of an Open311 platform for cities and citizens

  • Improve service delivery
  • Reach new constituents
  • Facilitate systems integration, internal collaboration

Improve Service Delivery

There are a number of ways in which an Open311 standard can improve service delivery

  • Third-party applications
  • Visualization of data
  • Enabling peer-to-peer problem solving

Reach New Constituents

  • Appeal to a younger audience
  • Reduce required time for citizen participation

Facilitate Systems Integration

  • Internal API
  • Standardization across localities and systems
  • Cost savings and innovation with new apps shared in many cities.


Paths to implementing an Open 311 and getting the most out of it, and suggestions for overcoming the obstacles you will face along the way. This section is carved up into:

  • Strategies
  • Challenges and Solutions


Third-Party Application Development

By sharing data in appropriate open formats, you open up the possibility that third parties (citizens and entrepreneurs) will develop useful applications for you. This allows cities to “get out of the ap development business”. Cities can inspire app development through inexpensive innovation competitions, and can moderate applications through an “app store” approach.


Innovation Competitions

  • Apps for Deomcracy [link]

App Stores

  • -

Challenges and Responses

Here are some issues that pop up with this appraoch, and what you can do about them:

Liability: Agencies are concerned that they could be liable if someone is harmed as a result of using a third-party application based on their data


Lost Revenue: Agencies see data as a source of revenue and don’t want to give it away for free


  • Can frame revenue generation in terms of useful applications developed
  • Make the argument: the taxpayers own this data

Digital Inclusion: Anytime a web-based solution is proposed, digital inclusion issues are raised.


  • Messaging: most communities have some access through libraries and schools. Civic engagement opportunities can create lead users that spread digital literacy.
  • Build Alliances: digital inclusion groups can be made into allies

Technophobia: Some people just don’t like using the computers, or the Internet

Outdated Tech: 70’s mainframes, siloed agencies, varied geocoders and location services.


  • Coordination of standardized webservices abstration layer on top of any entrenched infrastructure (open311 api).