Last year, 23-year-old Saharsh Hajela found himself tired of the time-consuming hoops he had to jump through to contact his local elected officials. So the recent University of Michigan computer science graduate decided to take matters into his own hands by creating an app called Shout.
"I was frustrated with how difficult it was to find out who represents me and how to talk to them. Finding their contact information was a nightmare," Hajela says.
He notes that, according to a public opinion poll from Haven Insights, only 37% of Americans can name their elected representatives. Those who know how to get a hold of their representatives are even fewer.
"All of our public officials have separate websites with different formats and forms. I wanted to make one place where people can find all of their reps and all of their contact info," he says.
Shout is now available for iOS and it will be released for Android soon. The app is designed to be simple and straightforward. Users enter their addresses (which remain confidential) and Shout provides a comprehensive list of their local, state, and federal public officials.
If users want to contact an official, they can type their message in the app and select the representative it should be directed to. Shout will then provide email, phone, Facebook, or Twitter information for users to choose from and the message will be sent directly from the app.
"The unfortunate reality is that contacting reps used to take tons of time and energy, and (it) discouraged people from taking part in the political process," Hajela says. "Now your representatives are at your fingertips, which means you can always have a voice in society."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Drew Metcalf.