Pima County is in the middle of a redesign of its website, and Tucson’s city government also recently refocused its website on customer services. Yesterday, New York City government released a report called “Road Map for the Digital City: Achieving New York City’s Digital Future.”
In New York, the emphasis on social media and other digital technology comes from the top.
“Any organization, in the public or private sector, that wants to be a leader in customer service must be a leader in digital media.”
— Mayor Mike Bloomberg
Right now, New York City agencies manage more than 200 social media channels. The city’s website – nyc.gov – gets about 2.8 million visitors per month and has an additional audience of over 1.2 million users through social media. The idea is to create a more centralized mechanism for exchanging information. This will involve training for agencies that currently use social media, working with digital media companies, and creating an advisory group called SMART (Social Media Advisory & Research Taskforce). According to the press release, SMART will manage citywide social media feeds including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr; provide recommendations on social media tools and strategies; help other agencies with social media; evaluate new platforms; and update guidelines and policies.
The city plans to redesign the website and host its first “Hackathon,” which it hopes will produces possible prototypes for the new nyc.gov. It plans to expand NYC Platform, an open government framework featuring Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for city data, launch a hub for feedback from the developer community and create an NYC App store.
The road map includes important steps toward making city government more accessible, though as a journalist, I worry about the centralization of information. I’m hopeful that the collaboration between NYC and the various social media companies now dominating the market will result in innovations that can be adopted by local governments across the country to improve local services.
Facebook Director of Public Policy Tim Sparapani was quoted in the press release as saying that was the purpose of the project: “Social technologies like Facebook can enhance transparency, collaboration, information sharing, and citizen engagement and we’re excited to be part of this initiative. It is our hope that Mayor Bloomberg’s program becomes a model for other cities to replicate as governments around the world find innovative ways to connect with citizens, provide information and deliver services.” We’ll see.
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for the city of Tucson or Pima County? Check back for more coverage of how local agencies are adapting to the digital world.