Category Archives: Information

Does Medfield want open data?

I have suggested that Medfield’s budget data and checkbook should be online so that anyone can easily see what the town spends its monies on and can also easily research the town budget priorities.  There are software apps that make this easy to do.  The state uses one to put its checkbook online, and i have seen two apps that focus more on the department budget side of the data, via http://www.opengov.com and http://www.visgov.com, which would provide their apps for a few thousand dollars a year.  Visgov.com is actually open source software, and we could use it at no cost if we installed it on our own.

The selectmen, the Warrant Committee and the Water and Sewer Board are supposed to meet soon to resolve budgeting issues that arose in the months prior to the annual town meeting,  and I am suggesting that we use that financial summit meeting to both resolve expectations as to our budgeting process going forward, but also to implement online budgeting to make the town finances more transparent.

Therefore, I was especially interested when today I saw the article below that indicates a high percentage of residents want the data available to them and expect that having it available will make their towns operate better.


Study: How Tech Can Improve Citizen Engagement

Citizen Perceptions of Data
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey to benchmark public sentiment on government initiatives that aim to leverage open data streams to improve services. The survey aimed to gauge:

  • People’s awareness of government efforts to share data
  • Whether these efforts translate into people using data to track government performance
  • If people think government data initiatives have made, or could make, government performance better or improve accountability
  • The more routine kinds of government-citizen online interactions

The survey analyzed citizen perception of government data use in the early stages at the local, state and federal levels. Overall, the public seems optimistic of open data government initiatives – specifically with improving accountability. While most participants use online data portals to find basic government information, the vast majority are not using the information to monitor government performance.

The Findings
The survey revealed:

  • 65 percent of Americans have used the internet to find data or information about government in the last 12 months
  • 19 percent could think of an example of where the local government did a good job providing information to the public about data it collects
  • 19 percent could think of an example of where the local government failed to provide enough information about data and information to the public
  • 56 percent hope open data can help journalists better cover government activities
  • 53 percent hope open data can make government officials more accountable
  • 49 percent expect open data to improve the quality of government services
  • 48 percent want open data to allow citizens to have more impact on government affairs
  • 45 percent predict open data to enable government officials to make better decisions

The majority of respondents are comfortable with the idea of government agencies collecting and sharing public data on a variety of platforms. Yet many remain cautious of providing their own data to the government such as mortgage information.

Driving Engagement
According to a recent IDC Government Insights report governments should invest in 3rd platform technologies – cloud, mobile, social and big data – to effectively drive citizen value and engagement. The study predicts more than 50 percent of government agencies will direct at least 25 percent of their citizen engagement budgets to 3rd platform technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions by 2020.

New digital channels coupled with a more comprehensive approach to redefining the citizen experience will align the goals of values of local leaders and residents. The research identifies five maturity stages for the citizen experience to help governments better understand the needs and goals of each group and select appropriate technologies to meet these expectations:

  • Ad hoc: Citizens request information across multiple channels
  • Opportunistic: CRM applications enable front-end automation so citizens can access information on their own
  • Repeatable: Digitization of workflows across channels allow citizens to handle services through full automation
  • Managed: Digital self-service allows citizens to show across multiple agencies and enables interactive handling of citizen requests
  • Optimized: Omni-channel citizen experience ensures consistent, convenient experience at very low cost to the government

The research suggests investment in 3rd platform technologies and the Internet of Things will help governments reduce costs while improving overall performance and accessibility. These interactive solutions better deliver new capabilities to public agencies and residents, while optimizing resource allocation and improving the way services are delivered.

Lack of Awareness
One major constraint many public agencies face when considering investment in new technologies and the Internet of Things is a lack of knowledge. A recent survey found only half of American adults are familiar with the term Internet of Things – which refers to the network of physical objects embedded with sensors and technologies to collect data that will guide decision making to improve services.

Because many Americans are unaware of how the Internet of Things works with existing infrastructure and services, 85 percent have concerns about the increased risk to breach of security and privacy. Furthermore, 70 percent fear IoT investment will have a negative impact on daily interactions and 51 percent are concerned about technical issues and the cost of repairing them.  If the public had a better understanding of how IoT and other new technologies are driving efficiency, there may be more support behind these investments.

Related Content
Challenging Tech Community to Solve Civic Problems w/Apps
Community at the Center of Civic Hacking
3 Cities Optimizing Open Data

Meetings notices must be better

A resident complained to me this morning at my selectman office hours about the fact that it is difficult to get advance notice of town board meetings one may be interested in attending.  In this instance, Tony Centore said that he has been following the recommendations made by the Economic Development Committee for the use of the town owned Lot 3 off Ice House Road, since he has advocated that the site be devoted to housing for seniors, due to the special synergies from the  proximity to The Center.

Tony does subscribe to the town daily email that comes each morning and lists all the town board meeting taking place that day, but in this instance, he failed to see that email until after the Economic Development Committee meeting had already taken place last night.

I agree that the town needs to create a better system so that people who are interested in following and/or getting information from a particular town board should be able to:

  • sign up to get sent to them the meeting notices at the same time those notices are sent to the committee members, plus
  • likewise similarly receive any documents sent out to the board members of that committee.

This makes sense to do because the town information should be made universally available to residents, and technology allows for this process to be automated (and operated via an online sign up system).  All meeting notices are required to be posted at least 48 hours before the meeting occurs, so there should be no reason that the town’s current email notice could not at least give two days advance notice of all meetings.

Also:

  • Town meetings are all open meetings, open to anyone; and
  • The documents are all public records and should be readily available to interested residents.

The town system should make it both easy and totally transparent for anyone who is interested to get the same information and at the same time that the committee members are getting.  I will ask for that to be an agenda item at the next meeting of the selectmen.

Visual budgets

At the Mass. Municipal Association annual meeting last weekend, I saw and heard presentations of an open source software product developed for the Town of Arlington by programers who live in Arlington, to show the town budget in a highly visual format. One merely clicks on the blocks to drill further down into the details.  http://visgov.com/

Since it is open source, Medfield could implement it at no cost if we have someone who knows how to do so.  If we hire the company that is managing the software, they would charge us $3,000.

I recommend that we employ this software, and that the town also employ software to put the town checkbook on-line, as the state has already done.

Town calendar

David Stephenson pointed me to Needham’s really nice looking town calendar –


Thought you’d both be interested in this: Needham publishes a wide range of iCalendars to which you can subscribe!

— David

 

W. David Stephenson | Principal | Stephenson Strategies/Stephenson Voice-Overs

Superintendent’s blog

The Superintendent of Schools, Jeffrey Marsden, has started a monthly blog, which is now into its second month, and which I highly recommend.  This month Jeff explains the issues behind the changes in the music program at the Dale Street School, which gave me the information I needed to appreciate the issues of the situation and to better understand the solution that has been crafted. I also liked the solution of appointing a citizen and schools committee to study whether the current solution is the right one.

I do not usually get to see the School Committee meetings on Medfield.TV, so I greatly appreciate having Jeff write about what is going on and pushing that information out to me to read on my own schedule, when I am able.  This is exactly how the town should be delivering information to its residents on how their town is being run.

The town government should exist to get its residents the services that they want and are willing to pay to have, but in the process of doing that, those running the town government must figure out exactly which services those are and in which amounts the residents both want the services and are willing to pay for them.  The first step towards accomplishing that goal is by making sure the residents have full information on which to make their decisions, and Jeff’s blog is a great step towards making information available to we residents.

To me this blog is a huge step in getting me the type of information that I, as both a resident and a parent, want about the schools, delivered in a format that works well for me, and so I applaud Jeff for starting the blog.  Thanks Jeff!  You have made me one happy reader

People want street repair schedule

I do not often look at the statistics about visitors to my blog, but WordPress posts a bar graph of past visits atop the page where I add new posts, and so I noticed today that there appeared to be a major spike last Thursday.

When I just looked to see why, I learned that a record number of visitors, by far, by a factor of about 2-3 times the next greatest number, had clicked through from a Patch article about planned road repairs.  Patch had picked up my blog post, but did not list the streets, so people had to click through to see which streets were being worked on this summer.

What this tells me is that there is a huge thirst for town information about what departments are planning that directly impacts people.  FYI, my fist two goals on my list for the selectmen this year are to develop a system to push town information to people and to improve the town’s website.

These are the statistics for my blog from last Thursday:


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Views: 805Help
Visitors: 448

Views per Visitor: 1.80

Search Engine Terms

These are terms people used to find your site.

2014-06-19

Search Views
medfield blog peterson 3
pete peterson blog 2
medfield state hospital 1
medfield music assoiciation 1
pete peterson medfield blog 1
pete peterson blog medfield 1
Unknown search terms 3
Total search terms 12

New Life Home Refurnishing

This from Susan Maritan –


 

New Life Home Refurnishing, a non-profit organization which accepts donations of gently used furniture and household items for individuals and families in need, is asking the public for help. They are in need of household appliances in good condition (toasters, coffee makers and small microwave ovens), bed frames (twin-full and queen) as well as gently used mattresses and box springs (no stains, tears or visible marks).

Medfield residents, Ron Yates and Doug Marshall, Co-Presidents of New Life, want the public to know that donations can be brought to the New Life warehouse 102 Elm Street (Route 27) in Walpole between 9 and 11 AM this Saturday, June 14, or New Life can provide a pick-up.

Please note, this summer New Life will have summer hours. June 14th will be the last Saturday that the warehouse is open for donations until September. Starting June 25th, the warehouse will be open every other Wednesday evening from 6:30 – 8:30 PM for drop offs.

Those interested in donating, scheduling a pick up, volunteering or looking at the schedule of summer hours are encouraged to reference the NewLife web site www.newlifehr.org or may call 774-316-6395.

The mission of NewLife Home Refurnishing is to help individuals and families in transition from the Metro-West and Greater Boston area. The New Life team believes that the opportunity to “shop” from the warehouse of gently used furnishings and household items offers dignity and affirmation to those who have been marginalized.