Maybe the coolest use of Google Glass yet:
Before Sandy hit, I wrote briefly about Google’s use of a crisis map to help residents and responders.
Since then, we have seen actions across the social media boundaries that have helped those affected by Sandy.
- The Fire Department of New York had a one-woman Twitter response team. Emily Rahimi responded to cries for help when residents were unable to get through to 911 or 311.
- New York utility provider Con Edison also used social media to get out pertinent information and respond to customers.
- Philly311 greatly helped Philadelphia respond to questions and disseminate information.
And then there is Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I’ve written before about Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter. During Sandy and the ongoing recovery, Booker has tirelessly worked to respond to citizens and deliver necessary supplies to those in need. And when a woman messaged him that her power wasn’t on, he invited her and any other residents to stay at his home. He provided wi-fi, his DVD collection, power outlets to charge phones, heat, and food. Pretty incredible in this day and age. For a collection of his best tweets, check out this link.
I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.
This is the greatest thing I’ve read online in a long time, courtesy of Ars Technica: Going boldly: Behind the scenes at NASA’s hallowed Mission Control Center. And also, Apollo Flight Controller 101: Every console explained.
Google has created an awesome “crisis map” to help citizens and public safety officials respond to Hurricane Sandy (see it here). The map has layers with the forecast track cone, projected storm surge, weather radar, precipitation, cloud imagery, web cams, public alerts, hurricane evacuation routes, traffic, and active evacuation shelters. The evacuation shelter information also includes their capacity and the number of current residents (courtesy of the Red Cross). Incredible.
This isn’t something that Google had to do. But their infrastructure and existing projects allow for easy deployment of tech like this that could save lives.
H/t to TechCrunch.
Unless government organizations understand that what really sets social media apart is the word “social” rather than “media”, and that they are people tool and not corporate tool, most attempts at developing effective strategies will be futile.
Andrea Di Maio, This Is Why Governments Struggle with the Use of Social Media.
This is what public administrators should be doing; I wish we weren’t so dependent on the private sector for innovation.
President Obama announced yesterday that he will be holding a townhall forum on Facebook. It will take place Wednesday, April 20 @ 1:45pm PDT / 4:45pm EDT. If you want to connect with America, go to where Americans are: Facebook.
Mayor Jacob Smith of Golden, Colorado, has posted an excellent overview of the lessons learned from the Indian Gulch Fire that began on March 20th. Specifically, he speaks to the communication lessons having to do with social media. I watched the news of the Indian Gulch Fire closely because it burned within sight of my office in Golden, Mayor Smith was one of the most important voices hitting the Twitter hashtag search for the fire.
Mayor Smith was one of the (unofficial) point people for the Indian Gulch Fire online (he’s @jacobzsmith on Twitter). Another was Golden City Councilor Bill Fisher (@goldenbilfish). Both utilized Twitter, Facebook, and their personal websites to communicate to the citizens of Golden.
Mayor Smith speaks directly to the intricacies of working with professional emergency managers (and their public information officers) during a crisis situation like the Indian Gulch Fire [original author's emphasis]:
Bill and I occupied an interesting space. We weren’t official voices of the City of Golden, but we had enough credibility that our information was taken seriously. We were both diligent about checking our facts before hitting ‘send,’ and we always tried to make sure the info we posted was accurate. Nonetheless, for any future emergencies we’ll need to think about how to keep the accuracy level high without slowing things down. Ironically enough, the only error I’m aware of was the result of an error on one of the official news releases.
An interesting point Mayor Smith makes is that emergency response personnel (from the City of Golden, the Jefferson County, and the Federal government) were able to concentrate on the fire, enabling he and Councilor Fisher to concentrate on communicating with their communities:
This enabled us to communicate with staff about issues that needed more attention or about information gaps that might not have been as important from the “protect people and homes” perspective but helped reduce the uncertainty among residents.
More important for followers of social media, Mayor Smith identifies that Twitter and Facebook were the fastest methods to get information out quickly, while email newsletters allowed him to communicate with residents who weren’t on social media.
Communicating across such a wide range of tools required a great deal more effort than simply relying on the traditional news release-driven approaches, but my sense is that the effort was worthwhile.
My conclusion? It is pretty clear that governments need to make use of social media (and new technologies) to enable quick information exchange with citizens. I have long been a fan of using social media in emergency situations as an alternative form of communication: just last fall, the City of Boulder’s reverse 911 system failed to get out a timely evacuation order during a wildfire. At the very minimum, local governments can post to Twitter and Facebook the same information they are giving out to media. And at the most, governments can inform the media as well as residents.
Yesterday Google announced that Kansas City, Kansas, would be the first city to participate in the Google Fiber project. The Google Fiber project seeks to bring 1-gigabit internet access to every house.
Google will have to reach an agreement with the Unified Board of Commissioners, but when that is completed they will work to roll out access to 50,000 to 500,000 residents of Kansas City, Kansas, at a competitive price.
You can read about the news from the New York Times, Government Technology, and the press release from the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas (pdf file).
I couldn’t be happier for the residents of Kansas City, Kansas. I worked for a year at the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and it is a place with great citizens and great workers. Kansas City was hit pretty hard by the end of the industrial boom, and the city has never really recovered. I think Google Fiber will give them a leg up on other cities in attracting new businesses and great residents. I am extremely proud that Mayor Joe Reardon and the staff at the Unified Government won this project for their citizens.