Local area World Wide Web
New York's 311 non-emergency hotline service struck me as a brilliant idea when I first heard about it. Imagine that on your way to work you spot a bollard that has been knocked over. Who do you call? The cost to the individual of researching where to direct the information is high and expectations of the call being handled efficiently are probably low. 311 introduces a single hotline where reports like the bollard example can be logged right away and routed to the proper authority.
An obvious expansion of the service, given that phones with GPS and cameras are becoming more widespread, would be sending a geotagged photo of, say, a nasty pothole or a broken swing at a playground to a 311-style email address. Often no explanation would be required, the picture would reveal the nature of the problem being reported.
While waiting for that service to become available in London it was a delight to learn about FixMyStreet. The site allows you to describe a local problem, which once it is logged on the site will get forwarded to the appropriate authority.
Looking at what had been reported in our local area of London I found this report detailing a problem that I had noticed but never really considered doing anything about:
The mix of mobile phone cameras, geotagging, easy reporting via the web and many eyes roaming the streets is promising.