“I Don’t Care About Anyone But Me” – Hyper-Local Gov 2.0

As I’ve been sitting in on sessions at CityCamp Raleigh, there’s one recurring statement that I’ve heard:

“I don’t care what’s going on in [insert neighboring town/city here].
I want information that’s directly relevant to me.”

It’s really a variation of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) – you and I are heartless about what’s happening in our immediate proximity. It’s not that we disregard our neighbors in other parts our town of city. We’re just busy and receive a lot of information, making it virtually impossible to process all the extraneous, irrelevant information. We want companies – and government – to help us in that filtering process, right?

So as I keep hearing this phrase – What’s Up In My Proximity? (WUIMP, there it is!) – I wanted to surface some case studies that are worthy of adaptation or replication. The SeeClickFix apps keep coming up this weekend as a prime example, and I’ve highlighted three others below.

First, it’s worth looking at the changes that Utah.gov just made to their website. In particular, Utah.gov has made it easy for citizens to pick from a pre-selected list of cities or plug in their zip code that generate information and resources near them. See the screen shot below for an example:

It also reminds me of the work done by GovLive, where citizens can zero in on their zip codes and find the latest government news releases based on their public RSS feeds:

Of course, there’s the messaging capabilities powered by GovDelivery (of which GovLoop is a subsidiary), in which citizens can sign up to receive alerts via email or text for only the topics that are relevant to them:

In other words, government needs to get serious about going hyper-local. If we want to really get citizens engaged, we need to find ways to deliver results and resources that are immediately impactful to their lives. If we do anything less, we likely won’t achieve the lofty goals of open government.

So here a couple questions for us to chew on:

1 – Do you agree with the fact that government needs to get hyper-local?

2 – What are some other current examples – initiatives and tools from government or products available from the private sector – that seek to place hyper-local information at the fingertips of citizens?

Thanks for your feedback.

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Andreas D. Addison

I am involved with a project in Richmond Virginia focused soley on this topic. Local government communication with citizens is a vital component to a successful, useful and functional customer service strategy. For too long governments have focused on sharing information as “we” use it, forgetting about the importance of the relevance to citizens. I have constantly heard city officials explain that citizens don’t want more information, they don’t/won’t understand it, and that its not worth the time to focus on only a couple concerned citizens. You raise a fantastic point, which is something that I have been throwing around in my workplace too, which is proximity of information relevant to where people live, work, and play. Citizens have told me that they would love to be able to know when construction projects are on-going or coming up in their neighborhoods. I like what Utah has done with the “near me” functionality. I also like the integrated communication for “notify me” which is similar to what I have seen in NYC. There are so many options for opening up important, useful, and relevant information to help make citizens have faith in their local governments again.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Andreas. Keep me posted on what’s going in Richmond and maybe we can feature your steps toward transformation. I think you can learn about citizen behavior through something as simple as watching your website analytics, then change placement of content based on visitor access.

At CityCampOKC, one of our unconference sessions involved a great conversation about getting citizens involved in the website redesign process…and just thinking that way, as you point out, is often a big step for cities and towns. I think they often work on these kinds of projects in isolation…when citizens are the most important people in the equation.

Any city/town designers out there that can confirm or challenge this perception?

Carol A. Spencer

I explain this concept every time I talk about MCUrgent (http://morriscountynj.gov/mcurgent/socialmedia-mcurgent.asp). Citizens want information coming to them and they want to be able to filter it (or have us filter it) based on it’s applicability to them.

Only a few towns in our county use Twitter to broadcast their information (and it’s so easy to do), so when I teach it for MCUrgent, I try to convince towns to create a Twitter feed of their own. It’s a far cry from the “near me” concept, but it’s a start and even the smallest, cash strapped jurisdiction can put out a Twitter feed of focused information: it’s easy and free.

Christopher Whitaker

This is why I like Everyblock – Everyblock is a website that drills down into the neighborhood level and lets people post and voice concerns about JUST their neighborhoods. It’s pretty useful.