June 24, 2010 By Karen Wilkinson
Starting mid-July in Aurora, Colo., residents can opt in to receive city information via text message, e-mail or RSS feed. Through a $23,800 investment in GovDelivery -- a private company that provides government-to-citizen communication tools through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform -- the city is hoping to better communicate with citizens through social media technology.
"This really is just one more way that we recognize and want to keep up with the way people live their lives through the use of technology," said Aurora Communications Director Kim Stuart. The costs are being covered by the city's technology fund, which is "earmarked" money from its general fund, she said.
The city -- with a population of approximately 320,000 and about 2,700 full-time city employees -- said the subscription-based service will provide a more tailored experience by allowing users to choose their information channels, like city council minutes, agendas and events information.
The service will complement the city's existing website and social media functions, Stuart said. And while the city, like most government agencies, is experiencing budget reductions, officials see the subscription service as an investment and an enhanced tool for citizens, she said.
"Communicating with residents, especially during difficult budget times, is really critical and we see this as an additional way to do that," Stuart said, adding she hasn't received any complaints about the price tag thus far. "For us, it's a modest investment for what we believe will be enhanced services to citizens."
The city was approached by GovDelivery -- which provides similar services to numerous federal, state and local agencies -- and because the City Council is always looking to better engage citizens, it decided to make the one-year investment. "People have really busy lives," Stuart said. "And we want to provide them the specific information in the time they want and in the method they want to receive it."
When the pilot ends the city will assess the service's outcome and -- based on demand and usefulness for citizens -- the service may be expanded to include additional information streams to which people can subscribe, Stuart said. GovDelivery couldn't be reached by deadline for comment.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.