July 28, 2009 By Casey Mayville
Photo: Deputy County Executive and CIO of Oakland County Mich., Phil Bertolini.
County collaboration, innovation and creative thinking take a front seat when facing bigger problems and smaller budgets as demonstrated by winners of the seventh annual Digital Counties Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government. The survey determined how well county governments used digital technologies to become more efficient and better able to serve their citizens. Categories included new Web technologies, online self-service, IT measures for environmental sustainability and dealing with the economic downturn.
Oakland County, Mich. -- winner of the 500,000 or more population category -- started experimenting with podcasts. The response was immediate and people downloaded the podcasts by the thousands. Podcasting led the way to government blogs and other interactive forums for citizens and county employees. The Blogin Café, a blogging technology showcase at the county's Arts, Beats and Eats festival, was aimed at generating an interest in blogging by citizens of all ages. A huge success, the Blogin Café helped more than 2,600 citizens voice their opinions on a variety of topics.
"It's one thing to put a technology or service out there and it's another thing to get people to actually use it," said Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO. "With Web 2.0 technologies, you have so many different abilities to interact with your constituency. We have this whole new generation of consumers that have really grown up with these technologies and they want information and services delivered differently."
"At one time we had a 92-year-old woman come in and say 'I don't know what a blog is but I'm interested' and ended up writing her very first blog. What this showed us was that there was a definite interest in these new technologies," Bertolini said.