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I’ve never been a big fan of local government. The rubbish, rates and roads brigades have often seemed to me to be the unnecessary tier of government in Australia.
Recently, I had what could be described as a local government (rubbish, rates, etc) road to Damascus experience. State governments have used emerging fiscal constraints as an excuse to abandon, ignore, or allow to wither on the vine of the sprouts of open government, open democracy, citizen-centric online services and Government 2.0 initiatives.
Given that it seems the state and federal governments have all but vacated the innovation playing field, it’s down to local government and particularly local government CIOs to re-imagine citizen-centric engagement and service delivery.
In other words, re-imagine how government will work better for us, not despite us. I recently attended the Municipal Association of Victoria’s annual CIO conference and the place was positively buzzing with ideas and innovation.
From Whittlesea to Port Melbourne, CIOs were rolling out applications to give citizens round the clock access to rubbish collections bookings, IPTV information channels, online development applications, surf reports, community transport solutions and live reports on parking spots.
But they are doing a lot more than just pushing information out. Local government CIOs are clearly demonstrating leadership by embracing platforms like BlinkMobile and Bang the Table to engage their communities in a two-way rich, socially enabled, place-based online conversation.
In Parramatta, New South Wales, the Smart Park application provides residents with a new way of live navigation to car spaces but also a way of council aggregating parking data over time to provide new knowledge to inform decisions on parking infrastructure for the future.
Queensland local government CIOs are also leading the charge in places like Ipswich, Sunshine Coast and Logan with new platforms that focus on what citizens’ needs are as opposed to the governments’.
In Western Australia, Tony Brun, CEO of the City of Greater Geraldton, is a dynamic and visionary local government leader. He and his CIO Ralf Ritzinger are re-imagining every aspect of the relationship between government and citizen through the Council’s 2029 and Beyond project.
They are rolling out platforms like CivicEvolution that helps the citizens of Geraldton create community written and supported plans to solve community problems.
Geraldton has invested in low cost, easily deployable tools like Snap Send Solve allowing citizens to easily capture and report on common issues including graffiti, litter, hard waste, parking, street cleaning, trees and noise.
And as far as I am aware, Geraldton is the only council providing online dog photos from the dog pound so you can rescue your pet with your smartphone.
Australians are experiencing an economy in transition with disruption in traditional sectors like manufacturing. No doubt, debate over when and how governments should intervene in such economic disruption will continue long after the displaced workers have moved west to the mines.
While we debate intervention in declining industries until we are blue in the face, we forget that intervention from government can also have an impact on industry sectors on the rise.
Intervention can take many forms, one being the willingness to work with local industry to drive innovation and growth.
Government CIOs have a role to play here. It seems to me that at this point, local government CIOs are leading the charge.