To Further their Footprint, Municipalities Must Embrace Technology

Hark back to the early 2000s, and you get an idea of how technology has affected every aspect of our lives today. Humans engage with one another today in ways that were unimaginable back then. Wikipedia was still in the experimental stages, so for serious research, we were still turning to the Encyclopedia. Facebook was an idea still fermenting in some college students’ minds.

The earliest forms of the Internet go back to the 1960s, with rudimentary constructions of email beginning to be utilized. Leading to the groundwork of social media and social networking as we know it today, home computers and internet chats started to emerge in the 1980s. In the late 90s, online blogs began to appear, followed by an explosion of social media tools including MySpace, (remember that?) Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, to name a few. We need to remind ourselves, that a whole generation of kids are already in high school who have grown up with these tools and know nothing else, not to mention the prodigious millennials who are already redefining the way we interact, connect, and do business – ways that were inconceivable 15 years ago. These are generations who demand instant feedback, 24-7 accessibility, and quick service at the demand of a few clicks. They are our customers and future leaders who are raising the bar on accountability, transparency, and engagement.

In recent years, Michigan local governments have been meeting these challenges with fresh ideas to create more seamless customer experiences by embracing creative ways of doing business through social media tools. You can read about some of those ideas in this issue. We’re seeing more enterprising ways of engaging the public than ever before with real effectual results. And these don’t have to be big steps to make big impacts. In partnership with the University of Michigan School of Information, the city of Ferndale is exploring low-tech solutions to engage resident in their community and share information. Through texting apps, Facebook, and personalized calendars, the city can directly communicate to citizens about curbsides services. Not only are these tools being used to create an engagement platform, but are also being used to think about city services from the Department of Public Works to the Police Department.

The city of Rochester is looking for new ways to make civic engagement both informative and fun through philanthropic events. And if you are looking to update how you develop your communication plans, a takeaway from the Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) 24 in Detroit, teaches you how to establish quick and easy tactics for your team to help build a voice for change in your community by using new public outreach methods to engage community members. Twitter is in the news a lot these days – and it’s not always good, but the city of Topeka, Kansas, found a way to take 140 characters and turn it into a big benefit by telling their story. Through the usage of this medium, the city peels back the layers of its services and introduces the residents to the people who are providing them.

The abilities of municipalities to communicate their messages to the world are bound only by the imagination.

*Blog is from my column in The Review 2017