February 17, 2011 By Chad Vander Veen
Boston CIO Bill Oates has a lot to brag about, but it’s difficult to get him to do so. In 2010, the city won two of the highest awards — the Best of the Web and the Digital Cities Survey — from e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company.
Last year, Boston launched a mobile version of the city’s already highly praised website. In 2009, an iPhone app (and later an Android app) called Citizens Connect allowed residents to report municipal issues like potholes on their smartphones. Oates also helped drive upgrades to the city’s call center and worked to enhance interdepartmental connectivity. Despite having key roles in all the city’s technology deployments, Oates routinely praises his colleagues. He also credits valuable support from Mayor Thomas Menino.
“The mayor has challenged everybody to change the way they do business and really be innovative, which I think has made nice partnerships across the city,” Oates said. “For me personally, moving from a whole career in the private sector and coming to government has been a great experience.”
Making the city accessible on mobile devices — plus the new features added to the city website — serve to underscore Oates’ commitment to using technology to enhance the citizen-government experience.
“What’s important for us is that I think we have established a Boston way of doing things with technology,” he said. “It’s about using technology to bring a closer connection between city government and our citizens. I think we use technology to make that relationship and that dialog better.”
Going forward, Oates and his colleagues have much to do, including a joint effort with Code for America to build educational service applications and the Boston Business Hub, which aims to help grow small businesses.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.