Civic Cloud – Moving Citizen Engagement to the Cloud

"Citizen engagement means a lot more than fixing potholes," said Maury Blackman. Blackman is the CEO of Accela.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that from his standpoint citizen engagement falls into three distinct areas. 

Three Areas of Citizen Engagement

  1. Public Infrastructure Management: Taking care of what is in the city, potholes, downed stop signs etc.
  2. How easy is it to open a business: What are the rules and requirements to set up a restaurant? How government has that conversation with small businesses owners is important.
  3. Property Management: People are passionate about their homes and the people around them. How can government enable a conversation with them about what is going on with their property as well as their neighbors?

"Look how fast information was coming out of Boston. People were tweeting photos from the neighborhoods where these things were taking place. Those things were non-existent three years ago. Things are changing very fast. Our call to action for communities is to say the cloud is here and let's have a conversation and figure out how to make the cloud work for you," said Blackman. 

To help create an environment of engagement Accela has launched a Civic Cloud platform. 

"One of the things we tried to do through the civic cloud platform is to really provide government with the tools to be able to manage that community. So that as information is coming in they don't have to answer the same question a 1,000 times. The product has its own logic built into it so that it understands this case has been already open 10 times so this is the best way to respond. These are the types of things that make it an effective management tool," said Blackman. 

What is Citizen Engagement?

"The first question you get right away is what is it? People's initial thought when they think citizen engagement is very simplistic types of interactions, like i'm telling the government there is something wrong in my community. I think the events of Boston showed us a whole new level of citizen engagement. For myself, I really think government wants to have a social conversation with the community. They want to know what is going on they just need the right way to filter that data, so that they can respond effectively," said Blackman. 

What is Accela?

"The two core things we do is enable cities, counties and state to help build on their property:

  • If you need to build a home, our software is the infrastructure behind the scenes. We also provide a very powerful customer service tool that enables those citizens to engage with government online and over mobile phones. 
  • We enable businesses to get set-up much faster and more streamlined. 

Civic Cloud

"Is is really a collection of pre-packaged solutions that enable government agencies of all sizes to get up and running in a cost effective way because in today's world governments are being asked to do more with less and we are answering the call," said Blackman. 

  • "One of the hallmarks coming off the Boston events is you see how important really strong communication systems are. Boston is unique, it is one of the largest cities in the US and has a lot of money. But what about small-town USA? That is really what the civic cloud is helping. Not just brining citizen engagement to NYC or San Francisco but to the small neighboring communities who can leverage the lessons learned and expertise of San Francisco."
  • "When I think of the cloud I think of it as being an enablement tool. Big cities have the budgets to build the infrastructure to make the type of services available that I am talking about. But smaller agencies don't so the cloud really makes that possible."
  • "The cloud knows out a whole level of infrastructure and service that you would have had to set up."
  • "Without the cloud they would need a significant IT staff, serves and tools to make it a reality."

Adopt or Die

"I know that sounds a little sinister but in this fast moving world agencies, cities and towns have to adapt to the changing environment around them or they will become the next ghost towns. Places that didn't adapt and get a rait stop during the industrial revolution, basically disappeared. I think with this whole technology movement with civic engagement and cloud, agencies need to adapt or figure out how to make them work or they have the possibility of becoming the next ghost town," said Blackman. 

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