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 donâ€™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 doesnâ€™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 itâ€™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 â€œopenâ€ 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, Iâ€™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, letâ€™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.
The City of Manorâ€™s open innovation portal, Manor Labs, has been live for a few months turning ideas into solutions. When talking with other cities, I find that the entire concept of open innovation is a bit misunderstood. It is very easy to put up a voting platform to rate ideas, but what happens afterwards? With Manor Labs, powered by the Spigit open innovation engine, the system is user-driven and self-sufficient. This allows our small agency the ability to process large quantities of ideas with limit staff involvement.
Here’s a breakdown of idea stages and functions.
It seems like today so many agencies are plagued by the expenses of online web development and associated hosting. Manor was no different. Smaller agencies pay thousands of dollars to private companies to developed attractive websites that can be done at a fraction of the cost.
After discussing my frustrations with Luke Fretwell, the founder of GovFresh, he had a solution that would not only work for Manor, but many other cities as well. His idea was to build the entire site on Wordpress, which is an open-source blog publishing application, with full-social media integration. I knew of Wordpress, and had even used it for my personal blog, but have never thought of using it for a government site outside of a traditional blog.
When talking this morning on Skype with my good friend Chris Quigley, from the UK-based company Delib, he informed me that he was in the hospital for a slipped disc in his back. The amazing thing is that while hospitalized, he created an open innovation platform for the hospital called Help Us Improve Kings.
This platform allows staff, patients and visitors the ability to submit, comment and rate ideas to improve Kings Hospital. Itâ€™s amazing how powerful open innovation is, and how one person can truly make a difference using technology as a tool.
Here’s a quick video explaining Manor Labs and our approach to open innovation.
The City of Manor’s open innovation platform, Manor Labs, is featured on the White House’s Open Government Initiative blog (Open Government Laboratories of Democracy).
Innovation is possible even in small cities with very small budgets. I hope that we can work with more cities to innovate new solutions for the public-sector.
Just as the federal government is using online brainstorming with government employees and the public to generate ideas for saving money or going green, state and local governments are also using new technology to tap peopleâ€™s intelligence and expertise. The City of Manor, Texas (pop. 5800) has launched â€œManor Labs,â€ an innovation marketplace for improving city services. A participant can sign up to suggest â€œideas and solutionsâ€ for the police department, the municipal court, and everything in between. Each participantâ€™s suggestion is ranked and rewarded with â€œinnobucks.â€ These points can be redeemed for prizes: a million points wins â€œmayor for the dayâ€ while 400,000 points can be traded for a ride-along with the Chief of Police.
We’re excited to announce Manor 2.0: Live Government Innovation From Small-Town Texas, a City of Manor, TX, and GovFresh collaboration.
Manor 2.0 will document our Gov 2.0 efforts, including our innovation initiative, Manor Labs. Our goal is to share, collaborate and connect with local governments like ours who want to leverage innovative technologies to better serve its citizens.
Tune in to http://manor.govfresh.com and join us on our Gov 2.0 journey.
On October 27, 2009, the City of Manor, Texas launched a new effort to crowdsource innovation in an effort called Manor Labs.
Manor Labs is a platform that allows individuals the mechanism to contribute new ideas and solutions for existing problems. Instead of constricting the innovation process to just agency employees, the City of Manor allows anyone to participate regardless of where they live. The benefit to the end-user is that they are rewarded with â€œInnobucksâ€ for their participation in the innovation process. These â€œInnobucksâ€ can be traded in for real products donated by local companies and partners, which provides users a tangible benefit for their participation.
QR-codes are two dimensional barcodes that can be generated for free and subsequently decoded for free on most newer model camera phones. When I first learned of QR-codes I quickly realized the amazing potential they had, however, I was unaware of the significant impact they would have on my own organization.