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When governments go social, positive citizen experiences can follow

 Larry Bowden, president, Web Experience Software, IBM writes about how social technologies can help governments create smart communities in IBM’s A Smart Planet Blog.

When people talk about “social” adoption, the conversation usually doesn’t shift to government. But maybe it should.

Today a growing number of cities and counties are embracing social technologies to create “Smart Communities.” According to the World Foundation for Smart Communities, these are communities that make a “conscious effort to use information technology to transform life and work within a region in significant and fundamental, rather than incremental, ways. This transformation is beneficial to the community and attracts local participation and cooperation among community groups, government, business and education.”

At its core, a Smarter Community has the ability to deliver exceptional “citizen experiences” and services – something the City of Windsor, and the County of Essex, Ontario, are doing right now.

For more than 10 years, the Center for Smart Community Innovation at Canada’s University of Windsor has been working on a Smart Community initiative involving those entities to provide citizens accurate information about all of the services within the region. Through social networking, the city and county now provide a single access point that connects citizens and organizations with detailed information about available services, matters of interest in the region, and guidance for citizen interactions and community projects. As a result of creating a more connected community, the Windsor-Essex region was designated as one of the “Top Seven Most Intelligent Communities” in the world by the New York-based think tank, the Intelligent Community Forum.

Across the globe, the Government of National Capital Territory, Delhi (GNCTD) was also interested in creating stronger, more consistent links with its citizens. With 180 departments, many of which had websites that were either hosted by the NationalInformaticsCenter or a third-party vendor, GNCTD struggled to keep the sites – and its information – up-to-date. In fact, some websites went without updates for as long four years. The stale data was a constant source of frustration for citizens who often were trying to find necessary information.

Through the creation of new social media solutions, GNCTD was able to unify all of its sites into a single portal for improved accessibility. In addition, the organization gave each department access to its own website and the ability to make updates to their content easily and quickly, without having to master any specific technical skills, such as HTML. Through these efforts, visits to the government portal nearly doubled within six months, while the cost and time for website development and maintenance decreased substantially. At the same time the Delhi Government was able to leverage the new social environment to create and deploy new programs and services cost-effectively.

As each day passes, more government entities are plugging into social technologies to help ensure exceptional experiences for their citizens. The explosion of information, increasing usage of mobile devices and the cultural shift towards social networking and analytics has citizens looking for – and expecting –exceptional web experiences and services.

Courtesy A Smart Planet Blog