What’s New in Civic Tech: Boulder, Colo., Works to Develop Better City Website by Engaging Users

Plus, U.S. Department of Agriculture moves to invest $97 million in rural broadband companies, San Francisco’s environment department publishes data on healthy nail salons, GovEx publishes a guide to evidence-based policy, and Albuquerque, N.M., launches a new one-stop-shop app.

by / August 2, 2018
Boulder, Colo. Shutterstock/Jeff Zehnder

Boulder, Colo., is the latest local government to design a new website with guidance from the end users — the city’s residents.

Boulder recently announced via a post on its website that it is in the process of improving bouldercolorado.gov, which is the city’s main digital HQ for information and services, receiving roughly 8 million pageviews each year. The announcement noted that the website as currently constructed was launched back in 2013 and is now in need of updates, updates the city wants the site’s users to weigh in on.

With this in mind, Boulder will hold a Website Improvement Project Open House on Aug. 9 to “share feedback on the website and how it can better serve your needs.” Interested parties are also invited to use this site to provide feedback about the work online.

In the announcement, the city noted that work has already begun, and that as such staffers have spent time speaking with members of the community, as well as studying survey and Web traffic data to determine and prioritize the most popular reasons that visitors come to the site, which range from paying utility bills to finding hiking trails.

In addition to the user-centered website improvement work, Boulder is also moving to inventory the totality of its Web content and e-services via an audit. It’s hefty work, seeing as Boulder has almost 5,000 webpages to go through.

Finally, Boulder is in search of volunteers to actually test its new digital presence.

U.S. Department of Agriculture to Invest $97 Million in Rural Broadband

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to invest $97 million in 12 projects aimed at improving the quality and availability of rural broadband throughout 11 states.

The announcement was made Wednesday, Aug. 1 by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and the investments are slated to be made through the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and the Community Connect Grant Program.

Some of the breakdown of where the money will go is as follows: a $21.4 million loan to Chibardun Telephone Cooperative, Inc. in Cameron, Wis.; a $2.7 million grant to Osage Innovation Solutions, LLC in Tulsa, Okla.; and a $13.7 million loan to the Northeast Missouri Rural Telephone Company in Green City, Mo.

The money is intended to build out fiber network capabilities and to install fixed wireless systems in presently unserved areas. The investments are aimed at improving access to broadband in rural communities located in Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The USDA announced the investments via a press release on its website.

San Francisco’s Environment Department Publishes Data on Healthy Nail Salons

San Francisco has published data on certified healthy nail salons, which according the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s website use less toxic products, safer practices and have more ventilation.

The newly published data is essentially aimed at helping residents find these nail salons throughout the city. It’s part of the San Francisco Healthy Nail Salon Program, the goal of which is “to reduce exposure of nail salon employees and residents to the toxic chemicals in nail products.”

The city is presenting the data as a map of recognized healthy nail salons throughout San Francisco, which visitors and residents alike can presumably use to find participants in the healthy salon program.

GovEx Publishes Guide to Evidence-Based Policy Making

GovEx, which is based at Johns Hopkins University and also known as the Center for Government Excellence, has published A Roadmap for Policy Change for cities, which has a stated goal of helping municipalities take new and better approaches to evidence-based policy-making.

In announcing the publication of the guide, GovEx notes that it was created with input from cities, and that “cities are increasingly on the front lines of addressing large-scale problems such as climate change, immigration, economic inequality and many others.”

The guide includes a number of nuanced sections written in plain language. These sections include information on how to strategically engage key partners, how to decide on a policy to implement based on local factors and myriad other topics.

The guide is free and online now.

Albuquerque, N.M., Launches New One-Stop-Shop App

Albuquerque, N.M., has launched a new app aimed at making it easier for residents to connect with the city and its services.

Dubbed OneABQ, the app is available to download here for iOS and here for Android. The app has a wide-ranging functionality that includes tasks such as sending reports, requesting help from the city and accessing the city’s 311 program. In fact, the OneABQ app actually creates a centralized access point for a number of disparate city services, ranging from public transit to the police department.

Residents can also use OneABQ to learn more about local volunteer opportunities as well as to receive updates on what’s happening in the city.

In a tweet announcing the app’s launch, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wrote, “It’s just one of the ways we’re bringing city government out into our community.”

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.