While larger towns, counties and state governments are promoting their online services, and investing in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, how can smaller towns make sure they are not left behind? Community development entails on the ground, high-touch work. But potential employers and residents tied to their I-phone or Android are increasingly expecting town government to “reach them where they are” – which is often online.
A good starting point for small town leaders who want to build their IT profile comes from an author who grew up in an Illinois town of 13,000 before going to San Francisco.
Abhi Nemani briefly describes eight tools for civic technology, most of which can apply to small towns: http://nationswell.com/digital-online-civic-tools-every-community-should-use/#ixzz3EjA54UmW. For example, everyone cares about crime, paying utilities, and contacting elected officials. Nemani points out both free (i.e., open source) alternatives, and some basic models that could be adapted (for a fee). On this blog, a prior post explored other means of engaging the public through online media.
Luckily, leaders can get some free advice as they choose which services and information is most important to have online. For North Carolina communities, the UNC School of Government (SOG) Center for Public Technology offers tips on website design and implementation, as well as guidance on larger IT work: http://www.sog.unc.edu/cpt.
For how to use both high- and low-tech public engagement, several SOG colleagues can help NC cities and towns. http://www.sog.unc.edu/node/1244.
John Stephens is a School of Government faculty member who focuses on the area of citizen engagement.