Last year, a group called the G7, consisting of seven of the nation's big-city CIOs, formed to collaborate on open software development. The G7 includes San Francisco CIO Chris Vein; District of Columbia CTO Bryan Sivak; New York CIO Carole Post; Boston CIO Bill Oates; Los Angeles CIO Randi Levin; Chicago CIO Hardik Bhatt; and Seattle CTO Bill Schrier. Several software vendors and application developers also are involved in creating the Open311 application programming interface (API). "Support and technical capability from community developers and the IT community into the Open311 discussion is critical," says Andy Maimoni, deputy director for San Francisco's 311 Customer Service Center. "CRM vendors that provide native integration into Open311 strengthen the Open Gov movement and will help fuel its success."

The group believes that by creating a library of open source code that cities can share, they can avoid common mistakes, reduce complexity of back-end system integration, save costs, and speed support for self-service channels. The group effort is one of the first national collaborations between government IT directors, software providers and proponents of open government that has produced a well-defined and documented standard for open government access.

The resulting technology already is being rolled out in the G7 communities. In those cities, residents can log on to a community-focused website, such as SeeClickFix, CitySourced or HeyGov, where they can quickly create a profile and identify their community of interest. Using the Open 311 standard, the websites communicate with the target local government CRM system and return a list of service request types and information available to the resident at that specified location. The user can choose from the list to report a problem, identify the location, upload photographs and provide other details about the issue, and click "submit" to send a service request to that government.

The request is received automatically by the CRM system, and a response confirmation message can be sent that includes details of the expected service delivery time or goal, and a case or reference number the resident can use to check the status of their request. The process is even simpler using one of the available smart phone apps that can be downloaded from the respective websites and that take advantage of the smart phone built-in GPS and camera to automatically create service requests. Other services, like TweetMy311, use Twitter to send and receive messages about issues to the local government's CRM system.