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Mobile and Your Council

First published here: http://collaborynth.com.au/content/mobile-and-your-council

Here are some numbers for you:

Mobile market saturation – 100%[1]

Smart phone saturation – 50%[1]

Mobile Enabled Council Sites: 5%[2]

So here we are in 2012, pretty much everyone has a mobile phone, half of them have a “smart phone” that is capable of accessing the Internet and all the magic contained there in, and yet, if they try and peruse their local councils online presence, by and large what they are going to get is frustration as they try and navigate a site designed for PC viewing on a screen the size of their hand.

In doing some research for this post I did a quick straw poll amongst my twitter followers (I know, hugely scientific and accurate huh?) about their experiences in accessing their local governments websites on a mobile device. Out of those who responded, no one reported coming across a mobile friendly website and everyone expressed frustration at trying to get to the information they were seeking. Now admittedly this isn’t anywhere near a scientifically accurate sample size (six people responded), however I am reasonably confident that these findings would be borne out by more structured studies.

It’s not all doom and gloom. however. The fact that people are using their mobile devices to try and access Council information is actually a good thing, and it shouldn’t be viewed as a problem. Rather it should be seen as an opportunity to provide a more streamlined and effective source of information for their constituents.

So what should you do?

  • Well the first thing I would do is have a look at your Councils website on your phone. Try and find commonly looked for information such as:
    • Council Opening Hours
    • Library Opening Hours
    • What bin should you put out
    • What events are on
    • Contact details for the Council/Library
  • Commit to including a mobile interface in any revamp of your current site. It’s not an optional extra anymore, and should be included as a core part of any new Council website.
  • If you’re not able to commit to a whole site revamp, see what you can do about tacking a mobile interface onto your existing site. Start small if you need to, say with your Library services and then build up from there.
  • Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment. Work out what works best for your particular situation

People are getting used to the idea of being able to pull out their phone and “Find out stuff(tm)”, whether it’s what’s on TV tonight, whether they got paid or which bin to put out this week. Local Government needs to recognise this and work with it. Just as Councils are recognising the value of Social Media in facilitating communications with their constituents, they need to understand that the Internet is becoming increasingly mobile and plan accordingly.

[1] http://www.zdnet.com.au/mobile-about-to-hit-the-wall-339331874.htm

[2] http://lgwebnetwork.org/sites/default/files/TheStateoftheWeb2010%20(3).pdf

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