Client:
City of Mobile Government

Industry Served:
City Government

Solutions:
Web Site, CD-ROM Presentations, Interactive Kiosks

Web Site Address:
www.cityofmobile.org


Profile:
The City of Mobile has been a client since 1997. From the beginning, we were challenged to understand city government and how it communicates and serves citizens, business, and tourists to create an interactive strategy to streamline and improve this level of service. In order to do this, we created a communication flowchart based on research and then outlined a new media strategy to conceptualize and implement a first class city government web site and interactive kiosk application to provide the ultimate guide for its users. Our efforts were rewarded in October 2001 when the City of Mobile web site was named a finalist by Government Technology as a top 16 web site out of 326 city government web sites from all over the country.

Creative Challenges: To provide an easy to use and appealing graphical interface to allow any level user access to a large variety of information online. One of our main goals with this web site was to analyze the tremendous amount of government information amongst officials and departments and then analyze, through the users “eyes”, the best way to interact with this information. It was important to us to help the user find the information they are looking for in the most efficient and intuitive way. This concept is demonstrated in our FAQ section. Each department identified the most commonly asked questions and answers from citizens which are then categorized and integrated into our City Department Directory and sorted by common topics of user interest for our FAQs. The key is to provide information related to common every day language the citizens use and not just through the formal structure of city government, which few understand.

Technical Hurdles: Their are many examples of innovations created in the process of evolving this application over time. Some examples of innovations include:

  1. TimeSaver Downloads – Several years ago, as part of our ongoing E-Gov Initiatives, we coined the term TimeSaver to represent any online form download or interactive application that can save users time and money. We aimed to identify, over time, City communication points with citizens and figure how technology (specifically web technology) can streamline this communication process and provide better service to our citizens and businesses.
  2. Integrated City Department Database – We developed an online application that combines all City Departments (75) and their basic information, with associated TimeSavers, as well as a bank of Frequently Asked Questions from each department. From this integrated directory (available in the City Departments section), citizens can easily find many answers to their most common questions without a phone call or drive to City Hall.
  3. Action Center – As an extension of our City-wide REACT system, our online Action Center allows citizens to report a problem to our 24/7 customer response unit. All reported problems are integrated into our REACT system and responded to as quickly as possible. This feature is highlighted from the front page and serves as a “Your Call to City Hall”.
  4. Advanced City Mapping System allows citizens and businesses to search an interactive map of the entire city down to the street level by owner name, address, subdivision, parcel number, or by zoning information. This extremely powerful technology has helped to make the “Maps and Facts” section very popular. This application is driven by a very large back-end database and produces maps on the fly based on the most recent information available.
  5. Online Government Resources – We understand in the course of everyday practice, our users, have to interact with Local, State, and Federal Government. In order to accommodate this reality, we have implemented a “Government Resources” section which centers around our Citizens. This section provides links to government resources for Arts and Culture, Business and Jobs, Education, General Government Operations, Health and Human Services, Money and Taxes, Travel, and Weather. This helps guide our user in their interaction with all levels of government.
  6. Citizen Participation – Citizens can directly interact with their government through our Online Surveys or via email to any of our Elected or Appointed Officials. Our City Officials section is built on the concept of providing citizens direct access to their government in a 2-way form of communication. All City Council meetings are provided in audio format for citizens who can not make the trip downtown every Tuesday.
  7. Online Surveys - We implement online surveys to elicit feedback from our users on a variety of topics. When the site was first launched, we asked everyone to let us know that best and worst parts of the site. This helped guide our development. We change the survey questions routinely, and value the input every time. This survey and results are available on the front page of the site.