Canberra the App reveals Capital’s undercover locations

The Outreach Domes

There are plenty of cynical jokes about just how little there is for non-political visitors to Canberra to actually see or do there, but the Australian Capital Territory Government now has high hopes that its new mobile app for tourists and locals alike will help shake-off stale stereotypes.

Dubbed Mobile Canberra, the smartphone software makes the ACT the latest jurisdiction to dial-into its reservoirs of open data in an effort to reveal many of its better features and essential amenities that might otherwise be missed.

The new app stems from a collaboration between the ACT Government, the eGov Cluster at technology research and development factory NICTA and local developers and designers Imagine Team, and  MyBus 2.0.

“We foster innovative Australian technology innovative Australian technology in government,” eGov Cluster manager Michael Phillips told Government News.

“Delivering services over mobile [devices] is important for any sphere of government.”

Tourists to Canberra have for decades complained that the designer city’s bedazzling array of giant roundabouts, long tree lined avenues and suburban streets often ending in cul-de-sacs makes navigation challenging for the uninitiated.

Fortunately the Territory’s Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, help is now literally at hand.

“This is the ACT’s first locally produced app that uses GPS technology and ACT Government data to provide the location of more than 9,800 public facilities like parks, water bubblers, toilets, playgrounds and bus stops as well as popular attractions,” Ms Gallagher said.

Getting tourists to stop off in the capital for more than just a passing afternoon has been a long-term goal for Canberra’s business community and tourism authorities   especially during sustained lulls when the departure of the political circus participants back to their electorates creates high accommodation vacancy rates.

One known frustration for families with children visiting the ACT is being able to easily locate parks and playgrounds to let little legs run off some steam, or finding accurate and timely information on where the city’s public bus network, curiously named ACTION, does and doesn’t run to as well as where tickets are available.

After decades of sub-scale patronage, Canberra’s bus stops and services are anticipated to make a strong revival later this year after when the Federal Government imposes paid parking throughout the Parliamentary Triangle.

Already widely loathed by locals, the move by Treasury to siphon an extra $73 million a year from the pockets of the now shrinking numbers of public servants has also caused dismay in the tourism sector, not least ecause of the clear potential to deter people from visiting key institutions   like the National Gallery, National Library, Questacon, National Portrait Gallery and Old Parliament House.

The parking situation is now so dire that The Canberra Times has reported that authorities at Parliament House are “busy preparing to defend the building’s visitors’ car park from being overrun by public servants” seeking refuge from federal agents now charged with parking enforcement.

Even so, Chief Minister Gallagher remains optimistic that making information available on digital apps and maps is going to improve the lot of both locals and visitors alike.

“The launch of Mobile Canberra is part of the ACT Government’s commitment to use digital technology to improve consultation and service delivery to the Canberra community, and to establish Canberra as a leading digital city,” Ms Gallagher said.

The ACT Government is similarly keen to stress that it is now transitioning data and information sharing into a digital setting “and has been working closely with business and the broader Canberra community to drive improvements in productivity, connectivity, innovation and services locally by using the latest thinking around digital technology.”

The Mobile Canberra app is available on iPhone, Android or tablet devices.

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