Webinar: Local Government Gets Mobile with Apps

Posted on February 17, 2015


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Register for the webinar on March 18

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Join ELGL for a webinar to discuss local governments experience with mobile apps. A panel of local government all stars will share their experience developing, implementing, and finding the right constituent relationship management (CRM) solution for their communities. We will talk about what drove interest in developing a mobile application, the selection process, functionality, evaluating success and lessons learned. ELGL and our panelists are looking forward to your questions and comments on March 18th!

Mobile Apps

How did you start your day?
ezgif.com-add-textI mean before yoga, breakfast, a shower, that first deep satisfying inhale of piping hot coffee, or offering your furry companion a good helping of breakfast. Did you begrudgingly open those weary eyes and instinctively reach for your phone? Maybe to turn off the alarm, check emails, respond to a text, or play candy crush saga? If you hopped out of bed chipper and ready to begin your day without checking the smartphone, I applaud you. This, however, is not a post intended to chastise or judge anyone for their reliance on smartphones, rather let’s consider how their prevalence is altering resident behavior and expectations.
First, let’s cover the basics. According to the PEW Internet and American Life Project at least 91% of US adults own a cell phone (I’m scared to guess what percentage of youth own or retain control of a parent’s phone), of those roughly 61% own a smart phone. When it comes to using smartphones not all generations embrace technology equitably. For instance, of those between ages 18 and 54 – 71% use a smart phone as opposed to the 37% of those age 55+ who are using a smartphone.
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Now that we’ve acknowledged that the bulk of us have expensive GPS cameras in our pockets, how are we using them (besides to post pictures of food)? The smartphone has integrated its way into daily activities –  running, paying bills, listening to music, finding a ride, sharing the latest meal, or keeping track of vitals – mobile apps are nothing new to anyone with a smartphone. Mobile apps have become a primary method for getting updates, connecting with family, completing work, or making a purchase. Do a double take on the graph below, just to be clear this is the number of folks who have NEVER downloaded a mobile app.
 
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While all this information is intriguing – chances are its reinforcing what you already know. That being said, if mobile apps are changing the way we interact with each other – why are they not more prevalent in local government? Mobile apps are nothing new to local government, just go to page 2 of Google search results and you’ll find mobile apps mentioned under the guise of Gov 2.0 way back in 2009.
a85993933cde604f295bdef6a69b859bThe interest and proliferation of mobile apps represent a departure from business as usual, local government not only has to deliver services but deliver them to citizens who may distrust government. Mobile apps are increasingly being relied upon to engage the public in a shared mission, blurring the lines between local government and residents by enlisting smartphone wielding citizens as partners. The increased demand for mobile convenience is perhaps the hallmark characteristic of modern resident expectations. Instead of attending meetings that conflict with jam packed schedules or searching through print media, residents want to give feedback, offer ideas, prioritize initiatives, and partners in creating a better community in a manner they area comfortable and familiar.
As distant as 2009 may seem, the world of government driven mobile applications is far from mature. In a recent Governing article Eric Gordon, director of the Engagement Game Laboratory (EGL) at Emerson College, commented on the impact of social media on urban life and democratic processes. In his response he aptly described the current approach to civic technologies as “scattershot”.
Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 4.43.10 PMIt’s a lot about throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks,”. “We’re at that moment where so much of civic technology is new, and it’s not clear what works nor is it clear what ‘working’ even means.
 
This stark reality means local government has to go out of its comfort zone. The pace of technological change is not necessarily congruent with policies and processes which emphasize extensive review and are often designed to say “no”. This of course hasn’t dissuaded everyone from pursuing a mobile applications, a handful of communities are turning to tech go beyond the standard customizable 311 app templates. Cities in Wisconsin, Florida, and Virginia are funding tech projects with the aim of developing mobile app based solutions to improve communication, check in golfers, and maintain a dialogue with residents while tracking service requests.
When a local government wadeshor6e into the realm of new technology it can be intimidating. There is no shortage of phone calls from vendors who offer turn key solutions, nor opinions on the merits of mobile applications. Trying to figure out what is best for an organization requires discipline and a process to determine what will be most effective and align with existing workflow processes. After all, capturing data and input doesn’t accomplish a bit of good if it doesn’t result in a real benefit.
Communities may elect to develop something specific to their needs, utilize a ready to go app, or even bypass the mobile app world all together and develop a super mobile friendly website. Keep in mind that just as each community is unique, no two mobile apps are created the same. The sky – or rather the budget – is the limit in terms of adding functionality.
Meet the Panelists 
Who can you expect to hear from on March 18th? ELGL has put together a panel of local government all stars with first hand knowledge of mobile apps and CRM systems. Our panelists include;

Russell Narahara, City of Redwood City, CA, Public Works Superintendent

Ron Pringle, City of Boulder, CO, Senior Applications Programmer

Jody Jacobson, City of Boulder, CO, Administrative Manager

Stephanie Betteridge, City of Gresham, OR, Senior Manager

The webinar will take place March 18, 2015 at 1:00 PM (CST). You can register for the webinar at: http://localgov-mobile-apps.eventbrite.com. As always our webinars take place at anymeeting.com/ELGLwebinar, simply log on with your email address.

Supplemental Reading

#LocalGov Geek proudly serving the City of Geneva, IL. Follow me on Twitter at @BenMcCready1 for an inside look at the #LocalGovLife!

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