Texas town, a best practice in use of social media

QR Code for "An internet of things"

Image via Wikipedia

The new buzz phrase of the day is “open government”. At the national level this has led to many new initiatives, one of which is the DHS sponsored National Dialogue on Preparedness. This site allows people to submit ideas regarding preparedness grant programs and incentives. They encourage people to address:  “Which grant programs have been successful in building preparedness capabilities? Which programs can be improved? How can we effectively balance local emergency management needs with national mandates for security and resiliency?” People can vote on ideas with a virtual thumbs up or thumbs down.

At the local level,  Manor, Texas (population 5600) near Austin, Texas is using social media in many ways, not just Facebook, twitter, etc. but also for collaboration or “opening government,” similar to the DHS initiative. In Manor, good ideas can result in actual prizes (see “getting credit for your contribution”) in an effort to garner as much participation as possible. Their collaboration effort, called “Manor Labs,”  is described on their website as “an open innovation platform designed to allow you to help us solve problems that plague our local government...” The idea submission system is powered by the proprietary software Spigit and is worth perusing.

Manor is also currently engaged in a six month pilot program to test  a two-way communications platform which will allow citizens to send information to responders  during a crisis. This initiative is also powered by proprietary software developed by Civiguard. It will be interesting to see the results.

Another one of their initiatives is a system called  “QR-codes”. The White Paper entitled “Redefining Government Communication with QR-Codes” gives a complete account of the capability, but in general it is a bar-code system that allows users to receive on-demand information via their smart phone and a hyperlink:

After installing free decoding software (listed in the resources section), an individual can scan a City of Manor QR-code with their camera phone. They are taken directly to the linked site or prompted with the embedded URL. Although each QR-code appears to be the same image, each links to separate websites relevant to their location and placement.

An example of how it will be used:

Eventually, the City of Manor will tie the QR-codes on city vehicles into a realtime work order system so that if a resident is curious about why a city vehicle is in their neighborhood, they could simply scan the side of the vehicle for a real-time work order update. This would bring a layer of transparency to government that was never possible before.

I have not listed all of their initiatives, but I encourage anyone interested to take a look at what all this very small Texas town has been able to accomplish.

6 responses to “Texas town, a best practice in use of social media

  1. Great stuff! I’d been looking into QR codes recently, thinking about the various ways they bind the physical and online worlds through personal data devices. As ever with online information, one of the chief challenges will be “feeding the monster” with updated and interesting content.

    I’m particularly interested in how QR codes might be used to drive users to just-in-time learning resources during an emergency. Publishing QR-coded links to safety and recovery information on signs, fliers and so on might have considerable leverage.

    Also, as with the QR sign on the pumping station in the Manor paper, these codes can be used to attach extended and constantly updatable documentation to things large and small… another version of JIT learning.

    • Honestly, confession here, I’d never heard of QR codes before today, but their application to emergency communications or response operations seems like it might be a natural progression. You can get a lot more information into the hands of the public if you direct them to a website that you can update vs. having to reprint signs. Signs are limiting anyway because of he number of characters you can print on them before it becomes unreadable.
      Interesting stuff is happening, indeed.

  2. Pingback: Has the professionalization of emergency management lessened our willingness to use/appreciate volunteers? « idisaster 2.0

  3. Pingback: Het beste social media-interview tot nu toe

  4. So what happened to these initiatives? A click on many of the links shows they are either non-existent or no longer working. QR Code initiative in particular. Did it not work for the City of Manor?

    • kim26stephens

      Thanks for your comment–sorry it took me a while to get back to you. Honestly, I’m not sure what happened. I’m guessing that the champion of technology probably left the organization.

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