The hotline service was redeisgned to go mobile in 2009. Called Citizen's Connect, community members can download and utilize the system as a mobile app (available for Android and iOS). Interestingly, Oates noted that when they moved to the mobile application, a new set of demographics began to use the service - people noted that when they called the hotline number, it felt like complaining, but as people use the mobile app they felt more like they were helping their neighborhood and the city. As they begin to use a mobile system with a more robust database the analytics on on the submissions is very important to evaluate responsiveness, service follow through and resource needs. They also build in acknowledgement and recognition programs such as naming potholes repaired with people's help in identifying it, and a Street Cred points program.
This idea has taken hold beyond Boston. Commonwealth Connnect expands the ability for other cities to deliver a similar service to 46 communities around the state. This has really helped spread an innovation model with technology.
Oates talked about the mining of social media data on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. Social media was used extensively to outreach to the community especially around the Shelter in Place period. He noted that after 9-11 there was lost of investment interoperability of radio for public safety services. And with social media, there's need for increased broadband public safety network capacity as people share more data, photos, videos, voice content. The city's call center typically will handle 8-900 calls per day but handled over 10,000 calls the day of the marathon bombing.
Last year the city created a social media strategist position (it has upwards of 40+ social media accounts). Oates highlighted how the city was part of the social media conversation during that week with the Boston Police Department having 48 million impressions that week
The city is also improving its understanding and sentiment analysis around events that happen in the city - celebrations, community gatherings as well as emergencies
Another innovation at the city has been the Office of New Urban Mechanics so named because Mayor Tom Menino had been called the urban mechanic when he first got elected. It's situated right next to the mayor's office and functions as an open door to city hall. Citizens have place to pitched their ideas, and the office helps creates a pipeline o f innovative opportunities. They use it to create applications, solutions and new projects, One project Technology for Autism Now (TAN) was catalyzed by a mother of an autistic child, and utilizes tablet-based tools and the city partnered with a couple of local public schools to develop it.
Oates shared his views on open data sets and open government. He observed that open data isn't about "let's go find how many data sets we can find and pulish them" but, open data should be a strategy. He indicated that the city we will publish as much relevant information as possible, though as they also handle health and education data, privacy is vital.
These kind of innovations help the citizen's really get engaged and make a difference in their community.