Citizen Engagement Technology Initiatives

Open Government, Citizen Online Services, Mobile Services & Social Media

The Strategy

  1. OPEN: So that residents can understand what their government is doing, we strive to open our process, our data and our performance;

  2. INFORMATIVE: So that residents can take advantage of services that are offered, we are provide timely, relevant information on appropriate channels; and,

  3. EMPOWERING: So that residents can directly shape what their government does, we provide residents with tools and opportunities to bend city resources to their needs.

The Tactics

The City has invested in the people, the platforms, the partnerships, and the products necessary to advance this strategy.
People

This year, the City appointed its first Data Scientist, to drive its open data strategy. We’ve also hired our first citywide Social Media Strategist, to ensure we’re using every channel to keep Boston residents informed. In addition, we’ve welcomed a rotating group of 6 co-ops from the Northeastern University to serve as community engagement staff. We have also hired a new Civic Coder, who will provide an additional resource to address constituent facing opportunities while supporting engagement with the external developer community.

Platforms

This year, we’ve launched a new open government portal, a new open data platform, and a new public performance management platform.

Partnerships

This year, we’ve founded a new research partnership called the Boston Area Research Initiative. We’ve partnered with SAP, ESRI & IBM on new open data and engagement-oriented projects.

Products

This year, we’ve launched new products including adopt-a-hydrant, street bump and city worker, all of which help city residents and city staff collaborate and connect easier. 


Open Government

This year, the City of Boston launched its open government portal. This new portal offers Boston residents better access to the performance, processes and people of City government than we’ve ever had before. In fact, this portal puts Boston residents one click away from the City’s data scientist, its GIS manager, its performance director, and the heads of its innovation group. In this way, Boston’s approach to open gov is different than most cities.  Our intent is not just to make the City more accountable, professional and transparent; our intent is to make City government more personal, more accessible and empowering.  Through our open government site, we hope to shrink the distance between city residents and city government so that the new partnerships can form to move Boston forward.

Open Gov Portal


Open Data Cloud

The City of Boston is moving data to the cloud to establish our new public data platform, Data Boston. We are unlocking great potential using as a City asset. The site provides a wealth of information about what the city does on a daily basis as well as provide a better understanding about the city in general to constituents, developers, researchers, and the press. While improving transparency and accountability, it will also make possible new levels of service and responsiveness to constituent needs by encouraging innovation and civic engagement around data.

We're achieving our organization’s transparency goals, cost-effectively, by streamlining the data publishing process and automating maintenance and updates. Internal stakeholders in any department or agency become data publishers. Administrators manage the organization’s data in one central location, offer constituents a consistent and privately-branded online experience and get real-time data consumption and citizen engagement metrics.

Data Platform 


Citizens Connect for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Communities:

Citizens Connect 3.0The City of Boston was given approval by the Commonwealth of MA to extend our current investment of the Citizens Connect mobile application to additional communities within the State. This new development will empower municipal departments to improve their customer service delivery and enrich municipal collaboration and communication by developing the infrastructure to enable Boston’s Citizens Connect (and similar municipal-service request reporting applications) to forward a service request to the appropriate municipality based on jurisdiction of the issue and location.  We will make existing and proposed work order systems of participating municipalities compliant with the Open 311 standard. By adopting this standard, a wide variety of existing and potential mobile app developers can more quickly and inexpensively implement a mobile app for interested municipalities.

Engaged citizens make neighborhoods and municipalities strong. They can serve as the eyes and ears for government, helping us find and respond to the basics of community quality of life. Boston’s Citizens Connect mobile app has demonstrated a powerful ability to channel the public’s requests into improved results.
Citizens Connect App
Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program


Boston Street Bump Mobile Application:

Street Bump (150)Street Bump is a mobile app that helps identify potholes by recording "bump" data, providing the City with real-time information to help improve roads. Street Bump, a project that helps residents improve their neighborhood streets. As they drive, the mobile app collects data about the smoothness of the ride using the device's accelerometer and located using its GPS. Bumps are uploaded to the server for analysis. Likely road problems are submitted to the City via Open311, so they get fixed (e.g. potholes) or classified as known obstacles (e.g. speed bumps).The app is now available and currently in use across the City’s Public Works Department.  As of August 2012, Street Bump has recorded 724 trips which detected just under 40,000 bumps. 5,329 of those have been tagged as possible obstacles. The app will be offered to any interested City by the end of the calendar year.
Street Bump App 


Social Media

2012 saw a dramatic revamp of social media operations for the City of Boston through the establishment of a Social Technology Strategist position, and subsequent creation of cross-departmental working group of Social Media Liaisons. Departments use social media to access previously unengaged constituents, to deliver time-sensitive service and emergency alerts, and to invite public conversation; a citywide catalog is located here. Through the addition of this role, social media liaisons no longer operate in isolation. Increased collaboration with DoIT as the communications hub for social media initiatives results in wider, unified amplification.

socialmediabar_2


Procurement Portal (External Facing Vendor Site)

In conjunction with the citywide financial system upgrade, the City replaced a series of independent procurement sites with a central site for all procurement opportunities, including a Supplier Portal. Vendors may now register to be notified of future opportunities and are encouraged to submit bids and Request for Proposal responses online through our portal. Improved Procure to Pay operations will make Boston a better customer and improve vendor relationships, encourage small and large vendors to compete for the City’s business and will result in better pricing and quality of goods and services.

Supplier Portal


Enhanced Boston Business Hub

The Boston Business Hub is truly a “one stop shop” for our business constituents to access state of the art research tools and data, connect with the right business development professional in the City to answer questions and create a customized permitting and licensing pathway tailored to their particular needs. Unlike traditional government services, the Boston Business Hub operates at the pace and time of today’s business executive – 7 x 24 x 365. Our most recent innovation incorporates two key features that provide the business constituent with the ability to seamlessly move among the realms of business research, location selection and permit application from one centralized location - the Boston Business Hub. The Boston Business Analyst tool from ESRI empowers the businessperson with free access to customized historic and current data as well as future year forecasts related to demographic, financial, market, census and traffic data focusing on the City of Boston. The City of Boston Enterprise Permitting System integrates the City’s Inspectional Services and Fire Department’s permitting and inspection processes with the business owner in a clear and simple web portal. The combined effect of these two service expansions has yielded an unparalleled level of business support and service provided by any government agency. 

Boston Business Hub (440)