Six apps for the community-minded

By Joseph Hutt – 

That morning chill, first-day-of-school posts littering social media, pumpkin spice everythings; all are signs that fall is well on its way, and with it the sights, tastes and events that always accompany the season. Now, while the last thing you likely want to do is keep your eyes on your phone until the snow starts to fall, we’ve compiled a short list of apps that are, nevertheless, worth taking a look at.

I Bike I Buy
Available on Android and iOS
Cost: Free

During the summer of 2015, Councillor Jeff Leiper encouraged cyclists in the Kitchissippi ward to participate in a data collection project that would help determine the financial impact that cyclists have on the city. More specifically, he asked any cyclists making use of those bright orange bike corrals — installed that summer — to report the amount of money they were spending nearby on iBikeiBuy.ca.

As of September 12, iBikeiBuy.ca reported just over $99,800 in sales across Ottawa, and that is only including the numbers that were actually submitted. The intention behind this project, according to iBikeiBuy.ca, is to help demonstrate “that cyclists spend as much or more per person than driving customers.”

Why does this matter? Well, if you are a cyclist, it means that the city will have documented evidence that improved cycling infrastructure positively improves the city’s economy. It will mean that more money is put into making cycling a more accessible, sustainable and reliable means of travel, instead of the typical focus cities have on motorized vehicles.

Most recently, iBikeiBuy.ca has turned into an app-based project, including greater functionality and a much wider scope across the city.

Milieu.io
This app is currently browser based
Cost: Free

Another app that City Councillor Jeff Leiper has encouraged people to engage with is Milieu.io, which is a database for urban development sites across the city. It includes a number of useful tools, such as searching for developments by urban ward. The website keeps up to date with all legislative and zoning updates, reproduces all documentation that has been made available and even allows community members to voice their opinions directly to the urban planners and city councillors responsible for the projects.

For those who feel that digital correspondence is not a powerful enough tool, Milieu.io also posts when and where public consultation and voting will take place.

Screenshot from Milieu.io.
Screenshot from Milieu.io.

It is no secret that the Kitchissippi ward has been going through some major changes; some would say for the better, some would say otherwise. Regardless of where your opinion lies on this spectrum, it is important that the people who represent us and determine the course of urban development are fully aware of the peoples’ feelings. Milieu.io is just one tool to help the voices of our communities be more easily heard.

OrbitPlay
Available on Android and IOS
Cost: Free

What had started off as a means to connect wayward and partnerless tennis and squash players (through the websites tennisorbit.com and squashorbit.com) has now evolved into an app with much more diverse aspirations. While the OrbitHub mission is still very much the same – to connect people in cities and on campuses with casual activity partners –  they have expanded their vision with OrbitPlay to include badminton, board games, workout sessions, rock climbing and even just social nights at the local resto-pub.

In a city that so many people accuse of being boring, this app has great potential in connecting you with competitive rivals, casual friends and all-around good times. Just find someone in the activity group who has some free time, coordinate the when and where through the app and let the games – whether that is a game of Codenames at Monopolatte or a few rounds in the University of Ottawa squash courts – begin!

Too much of a social butterfly for your own good? Well, the app actually compiles a calendar of the meet ups  you schedule to help keep you at the top of your game.

Street Food Ottawa
Available on Android, iOS, and Windows
Cost: Free (Though you’ll have to buy the food.)

Want to savour a final weather-appropriate ice cream cone from The Merry Dairy? Feel like an impromptu change to your typical lunch break routine? As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.”

Currently, Street Food Ottawa tracks about 44 different food trucks in the Ottawa area, and one push of a button will let you know when and where your favourites will be over the next few days. You even have the option of saving your favourites for easy access, which will get extremely useful as the number of trucks being tracked increases.

While many residents might already follow your favourite trucks on their social media, Street Food Ottawa has the benefit of consolidating a lot of information – which might otherwise require scrolling through innumerable Twitter posts or the like – into one spot. Also, if you’re in the market to try something new, the app’s Google mapping function lets you see all the trucks in your area and you can explore from there.

But this app isn’t just a tool for consumers; it is also a free way for food truck owners to get the word out about where they will be around town and when. They can also connect their Twitter accounts to their profile, allowing them to keep app users apprised of last minute changes or specials.

DateNight
Available on Android and iOS
Cost: Free

Theatre, concerts, dinner for two, comedy clubs, strolls along the canal, you name it; there are plenty of couples’ activities to partake of in Ottawa. However, throwing a kid or three into the mix can make nights on the town few and far between, especially if you have no family nearby to take them in for the night. DateNight – founded by Elize Shirdel, Toronto mother of two – has endeavoured to make those fond memories of freedom a reality by connecting you with local babysitters willing to watch over your kids.

To alleviate some of the initial scepticism you may have, this app does not simply select a random babysitter to come to your house at an appointed time. DateNight helps you to coordinate official interviews with several potential candidates, either in person or over Skype, in order to help you determine whether or not you are comfortable leaving your children in their care. There is also a screening process, on behalf of the app, which requires potential babysitters to have “1-2 years of experience and 2 childcare-related references.”

So, if you are having trouble finding temporary guardians for your treasured tykes, take a look at some of the reviews that users have posted, contact the organization itself for more information on their vetting process and see what you think for yourself.

GoGive-Back
Available on Android and iOS
Cost: Free

The Kitchissippi area is known as a generous and connected community, willing to rally around neighbours and causes in order to help one another thrive. For those looking to take their philanthropy to the next level, there is a locally developed app that connects people to charitable organizations that exist around the city.

The app allows users to search through a list of Ottawa-based charities and make direct donations to that cause. Released only this year, it has already made an impact on reaching the goals of the Young Makers organization, an initiative that gives at-risk youth the opportunity to explore the potential of 3D printing design.

Aside from extending the reach of this community’s generosity, GoGive-Back can also serve as a resource for community leaders and small businesses looking to put together a charitable fundraiser. Early in its life as it is, GoGive-Back is not heavily populated – compared to platforms like Indiegogo and GoFundMe – providing participating charities with greater visibility to app users. Furthermore, it allows for spur of the moment donations when engaged supporters may not have the amount they wish to give on hand.

Why else should you look up this platform on your app store? Well, out of all the apps discussed thus far, this is probably the one most likely to change someone’s life.

Do you have a favourite app that keeps you connected to your community in a different way? We’d love to hear about it!

 

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