Special Reports

March 1, 2014

WSU students' new smartphone app helps Wichitans tell city about problems

Reporting a neighborhood problem to City Hall is now only a touch away.

Reporting a neighborhood problem to City Hall is now only a touch away.

The creator of two new mobile apps for the city of Wichita says you don’t even need to fill out details, such as a problem’s location.

“The app itself will take the information and send it,” said Pratik Gorasia, the app’s co-creator. “You really don’t have to do those things.”

“You can report long list of possible problems,” said Mike Mayta, the city’s chief information officer. “Curbs and gutters, litter, pavement problems, street lights. The app will allow us to streamline the process of taking care of problems.”

A pair of Wichita State University graduate students, Gorasia and Ketan Paithankar, created a free mobile app – called “WichitaReport” – for the city of Wichita as part of a class at WSU. Gorasia is now working full time for the city and developed a second free mobile application for Wichita residents, “Find My Car,” that allows a user to locate a car if it gets impounded.

A full list of possible reports pops up when you click on the WichitaReport app. Find a problem, turn on the app, select a problem category, click on it, submit and it’s done.

There was concern expressed by some city officials, when this idea first appeared, regarding whether departments might get inundated by easy-to-do smartphone requests. For example, Mayta said, public works officials worried “that they’ve only got so many trucks fixing so many potholes” on any given day.

But the app has existed for several months, and the only problem Mayta sees so far “is that we haven’t done a good job here of getting the word out that the app exists.”

By early February, three months after the app came alive, just over 200 app reports came in. Mayta expects more, as people learn about WichitaReport and download it.

Gorasia said the city already had a website where residents can report problems and no one got buried under work orders with that.

Once the app gets more established and more people use it, it likely will make city work more efficient, Mayta said.

“It cuts down on the work involved in any process,” he said. “When a work crew gets a GPS coordinate on a problem such as a pothole, they have a specific location to go to, instead of sending crews out to look for it and try to figure out where it might be.”

Using the app appears to be relatively easy, only a few touches, with directions that appear simple to follow. Users have the option of sending a photo of a problem if they want, and giving – or not giving – their name along with the report, Mayta said.

WichitaReport and Find My Car, which have produced nearly 150 app reports so far, came about in part because Mayta likes to find ways to give back, not only to the community but to WSU.

He still teaches there and used to work in WSU’s media center for distance education. He also was the city’s original webmaster when Wichita first went online, he said.

Last year, when people were looking for projects for students to do, he suggested making apps, and Gorasia and Paithankar ended up creating one, under the supervision of a management information systems professor, Khawaja Saeed, at WSU.

The creators got college credit, which helped complete their master’s degrees in computer networking, WSU said. They also got a fair amount of real-life experience. They visited City Hall several times. “And we did a lot of testing,” Gorasia said.

The iPhone version was done by the spring of 2013, and the Android version was done by the fall. The apps are available at the AppStore and Playstore, WSU said.

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