Information is the Currency of Democracy. Technology helps us make good use of it.
Here are three ways that I think the District of Squamish should be leveraging information technology.
#1 – Reporting and solving community issues
Every community has issues. From pot holes to homelessness and everything in between. Reporting, prioritizing and fixing issues has always been a challenge for governments. There are many great tools that have come on to the market in the past few years. See Click Fix is one of of them. It’s a platform that allows anyone to report and track non-emergency issues in a community. This simple tool could empower the citizens of Squamish and the district to take care of and improve our neighborhoods.
What to report?
- Garbage dumping
- Street repair issues
- Graffiti that needs cleaning
- Broken signage
- Sidewalk repairs
- Dirty public spaces
- Overflowing garbage cans
- Burnt out lights
- and more…
A tool like this brings huge efficiency as the community helps the district with identifying what needs to be focused on and gathers valuable actionable information. The District can’t be in all places at all times and a tool like this makes it easy for everyone to help improve our community.
It’s so easy that I already started a page for Squamish. If you have an issue, report it here and be part of the solution.
#2 – Cutting through the Red Tape
You hear about this all the time. “There is so much Red Tape!”
Everything takes too long and is too complex to process. The DOS deals with thousands of requests for licenses, permits and many other service requests from regular citizens to developers and other government entities. The challenge is in fulfilling all of these request in a timely manner with limited resources. It’s a common challenge that every business and government is faced with today.
The current known solution for fixing this for most leaders today is to simply add more people to the process and maybe start using some “off the shelf” COTS technology tools to speed up tasks. This rarely solves the greater problem and the fact of the matter is that most small governments are still manually run siloed organizations.
They need to look at new solutions and they need to look at Business Process Management (BPM). Business Process Management is not new but it has evolved and become a powerful tool for accelerating continuous process improvement. Companies like Appian.com have created tools with capabilities that can that can automate and streamline processes for all sorts of tasks and help organizations reach new levels of performance, while reducing costs. BPM creates the flexibility, agility and visibility our government needs to adapt more quickly to internal and external changes.
#3 Community Engagement through Social Media
Although the District of Squamish has started using Facebook, there is so much more it can and should be doing. Tools like Twitter and even Tiipz, a local tech company that offers a tool to capture real time consumer insight need to be explored and put to use. But Social media is not just about Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. It’s about engaging people where they are. The social media landscape looks a bit like this today.
A little overwhelming isn’t it? It’s hard to know where to invest the time and resources but it must be explored as it’s a gold mine of knowledge and opportunity. The beauty in this graphic is that it provides a chance to see the larger social media landscape and examine where the district of Squamish fits in.
Squamish is already being talked about on Twitter as you can see from this graph below and it’s growing every month. The DOS and other locals needs to join the conversation and even start more conversations with it’s citizens and the world at large.
That spike to 1000 was during Live at Squamish where thousands of people from Vancouver and the US were tweeting about Squamish to all of the followers on their Twitter accounts. The average twitter user has 126 followers and using some basic math we can make the assumption that over 100,000 people would have been exposed to our little town’s name and the event going on here. The reach and exposure on that one weekend was huge and was an opportunity for more local engagement. This is just one example of the opportunities out there on social media.
Highway 99 is another. Almost everyone of those cars that flies down the highway have a smartphone with a Twitter and Facebook account and learning how to capture and engage that audience should be a priority for the district and our tourism entities.
There are so many uses for social media in government and here are just a few.
- It can be used to promote government information and services
- RFP and tender opportunity marketing
- It can expand the outreach capabilities and improve the ability to interact with and serve the public
- It can help with community planning and decision making
- It can be used for service requesting
- It can be used to increase transparency and trust
- It can be used to educate the world at large about Squamish, it’s history and it’s future
- It can help with economic development by engaging business around the world
- It can help with tourism
- It can help with healthcare
The point is, a place like Squamish needs to embrace and become a leader in this area. It will help attract people to live here, business to work here and tourists to visit here. The need is not to just have social media accounts but use them to their full capabilities in concert with each other for a greater goal.