Could YOUR City Better Serve YOU with by Adopting Social Media?

Written by on November 14th, 2008

6 ways your city is missing the boat by not adopting comprehensive Internet strategies

Tip O’Neill has been quoted as saying “All politics is local.”  He said that to remind politicians to pay Pot holeattention to what is happening in their back yard if they want to stay in office.  Today government leaders are starting to pay attention to how they can use the Internet to improve services and better serve citizens.

Like most institutions their focus right now is how to use the Internet to give citizens access to information they normally have to stop in offices to get. Online registrations for dog tags, to accessing information about property is becoming the norm for many communities and counties.

But what about using social media and online community tools?

Government 2.0 recently published an article that looked at how local cities are using online community and social media to communicate and engage.  A variety of ideas are being explored by city government leaders but few are taking a comprehensive look at how they could use the Internet to increase:

  • Transparency
  • Communication
  • Services

And reduce costs!

But let’s take a look at the early pioneers and what they are doing to put their toe in the water!   Denver’s CIO, Molly Rauzi created a YouTube channel and uploaded various commercials, public service announcements and other videos.

YouTube offers TWO way communication.

Few organizations understand the value of putting videos on YouTube.  I like to remind them that YouTube is like a giant yellow page where people are searching every second for information.  A video channel for a company selling soap, an inventor explaining their latest author or a politician explaining his/her position gives them an opportunity to be found by those interested.  In Molly’s situation her staff can put training videos, demos and even use the channel to let staff vote on specific products and services they like.  The same can be done for citizens.

The phrase “a picture tells a thousand words” takes on new meaning when a local government uses YouTube to let citizens report problems and or infrastructure issues.  Savvy cell phone and camera users today can take a picture of a pothole, broken sign or other violations and post them to a the community channel where council persons and staff can see and react to them.

Most cities are not allowing their staff to access social and business networking sites.  Los Angeles and New York prohibit employee access to social networking sites.  With a hundred thousand employees or more, their CIO’s are concerned about capacity, security and wasting time.  Unless there are specific tools that benefit a specific department, I think their decision to block access is a wise one.  If only 25% of the employees used Facebook for an hour a day, the city would be losing hundreds of thousands of hours per year in lost productivity.

That being said, we still think cities should be moving forward and looking for ways they can communicate and better serve citizens using Web 2.0 tools.

Here are some thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Twitter could be used as a way to inform people about projects or services
  • Create a Facebook API that enables people to report on issues or weigh in on decisions
  • Voting tools could let citizens weigh in their vote as to where scarce dollars should be allocated
  • Survey tools could gain opinions prior to councilpersons voting on issues
  • Blogs could be used to fully vet a proposed project and use the comments to continue to improve and refine the design of the project

What services would you like your city to offer you online?

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