Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing different models of ‘digital’ or ‘smart’ cities. Many of these models are heavily centered on the re-engineering of technical or physical layers of infrastructure.

My name is Dustin Haisler and I’m the Assistant City Manager and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Manor, Texas.  Manor is a small community, located just east of Austin, of approximately 6,500 citizens. More recently, Manor has received a lot press for some of our innovative projects; such as our QR-code program, citizen idea portal, and pothole reporting system.  In fact, we are in such a state of continuous improvement that we even added the word ‘beta’ to our city logo.

Manor, Texas has received lots of recognition for the innovative technologies that have come out of it, but many people don’t know all the individuals that are responsible. My role as Assistant City Manager and CIO is to steer the development of emerging technologies in Manor, but the real hero is our City Manager, Phil Tate.

One of the first people that came to mind as a Gov 2.0 Hero doesn’t even work for the government. With this said, this individual has had a profound impact on government through his immense drive and passion to make the government a better place. Luke Fretwell is the creator of GovFresh, which has become a very important resource for agencies and citizens interested in how technology is reshaping government of all levels. Luke recognizes individuals making their mark in government as Gov 2.0 Heros, but I think it’s time that his efforts get recognized. Luke, thank you for being a real Gov 2.0 Hero, and inspiring me to press forward no matter how difficult the challenge may be.

In the spirit of innovation, we are happy to announce the launch of the City of Manor in open beta. Manor launched in alpha in March of 1913, and has been operating as such for the last 97 years.

What does open beta mean?

What missing from Gov 2.0?

The answer: Education.

Like most agencies, we have done a significant amount of research at the City of Manor to determine how we could best use new technologies to interact and engage our citizens. In the process, we have discovered that there is one element that is quite often overlooked within the Gov 2.0 movement- education. Citizen and employee education is critical to the adoption of new technologies because the technology will not be used if it is misunderstood.

The open government movement has spurred lots of interest in agencies becoming more transparent to citizens. As a result, most federal agencies have launched “open” pages that allow anyone to submit ideas for their agencies.

While we laud these efforts as a good first step, there is more that needs to be done in order for these initiatives to reach their full potential.

A few months ago, I came up with a plan to understand our city operations and processes on a much more detailed level. After watching Undercover Boss last night on CBS, I thought I would share it with others, so that it might inspire you to do the same (no, I’m not going undercover).

Part of our research focus at Manor Labs is to discover new ways of communicating and engaging the public. The following two concepts came out of that research.

The new form of social network-based online gaming has become all the rage on popular social networking sites. From a government standpoint, we have determined that these platforms are distractions and subsequently block them from use by our employees. However, let’s propose a new thought; what if we used these tools to educate and engage our public?

Today, more than ever, there has been lots of talk about open innovation, idea collection, ideation and many other terms used to describe the collection of citizen feedback. Most idea collection platforms have been lumped together and only compared on the basis of price alone. Based upon our research at Manor Labs, in collaboration with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, we have come to the conclusion that there are two distinctly different platforms for idea collection.