In order to keep up with students’ increasing use of smartphones, the University partnered with three new mobile developers this school year, adding the applications LiveSafe, Usher, and Campus Quad to Georgetown’s repertoire of customized apps for Georgetown. These apps are designed to cater to the 99 percent of Hoyas who own some kind of smart mobile device, according to Georgetown’s Mobile Manager Lee Emmert.
GUSA worked with University Information Services to bring these apps to Georgetown’s campus. “What we’re doing is trying to bring Georgetown up in a commonsense way to technological standards that are second nature at other universities,” said GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ‘15). “We haven’t traditionally had very strong technology infrastructure here.”
Overloading students with a larger quantity of specialized apps, rather than centralizing features into the preexisting official Georgetown app, may not be the best utilization of resources. The University, however, seems to be trying to solve student problems one app at a time. GUSA advocated for the new apps to be introduced to campus because they address common student concerns. “In order to have value, apps have to solve a problem for someone,” Emmert said.
According to Chief of Public Safety Jay Gruber, students are hesitant to report minor incidents by calling in. The LiveSafe app, however, allows students to report incidents by sending text messages. “The research shows that students are so much more likely to text the information in,” said Gruber. “One of the nice features of the app is if you still feel a little uncomfortable, you have the option of doing it anonymously.”
The app was designed to make it as safe and easy as possible for students and faculty to share safety-related information with police and the community. “The LiveSafe mobile app … lets people take more ownership in their community,” said Jenny Abramson, President and CEO of LiveSafe, in an email to the Voice. “The system lowers the barriers to sharing information about sexual assault, mental health issues, and violence—preventing incidents before they occur.”
The Campus Quad app similarly seeks to engage the entire community by allowing organizations and individuals to advertise different events and activities on a public network. In deciding to bring this app to campus, Emmert wanted to provide a way to share information about events with more of the student body. “We’ve been trying to solve for a while now the problem of communicating without resorting to mass emails,” he said.
Users of Campus Quad are able to see information about all upcoming activities on the Hilltop through their newsfeeds. “[Campus Quad] draws in the student that didn’t see the flyer in Red Square, or wasn’t a part of the Facebook group that the organization posted the event to,” said Amanda Carlton, associate director of the Center for Student Engagement.
While Campus Quad and LiveSafe can be accessed by anyone with a Georgetown NetID, the new GoCard app, Usher, is still in its piloting phase and can only be used by freshmen and incoming transfer students. “It is built around the idea of a mobile GoCard,” said Emmert. “You can pay for things on campus at Hoya Court, at Leo’s, a number of other locations … you can use it to pay for printing, and also for swapping contacts with each other.”
Although Usher has been downloaded by 1,104 students, not all freshmen have found the app to be completely beneficial. “The mobile GoCard is useful for certain things, like paying at Leo’s, but it cannot be taken as a form of identification,” Armando Soto (SFS ’18) said. In order to make the Usher app more useful, he suggests “adding more features and making it so we can get into our dorms or the library with our mobile GoCard.”
According to Emmert, UIS will consider adding more features to the Usher app based on how the results of the pilot program. If it goes well, they will consider expanding the app to the rest of the classes as well.
Although a high percentage of students have smartphones, there are still students who do not. “I think [that’s] one issue we need to constantly keep in the back of our minds,” said Tezel. “We have brought up the issue with [LiveSafe and Campus Quad] app designers and they have reassured us that there is an HTML code, a way that through a non-smartphone you can still use the basics of the app.” As these apps continue to expand their reach on campus, GUSA says it will continue to look for ways to make sure all students are included in the technological improvements.
Additional reporting by Kenneth Lee.