Making Government Work

Can Cloud Technology Improve the Relationship Between City Officials and Residents?

August 25, 2014
by
Menu
Can Cloud Technology Improve the Relationship Between City Officials and Residents?
Philadelphia is rolling out a 311 line that works with text and email to give residents a way to talk to the city. Getty Images
The City of Brotherly Love inks a deal with IT services company Unisys to improve its 311 system.

As if mornings aren’t painful enough, a large pothole on your route to work can really put you in a grumpy mood.

Fortunately, for Philadelphia residents, they’ll no longer have to endure long waits on the phone to report such road problems (or to ask simple questions about recreation events or to lodge a complaint about garbage services). That’s because information services will soon improve since officials announced a partnership with IT services company Unisys to upgrade 311 through cloud-based hosting.

The new system, which hinges on technology from cloud platform company Salesforce, will give locals instant access to information services online, through social media services like Twitter or Faceboook or by calling and texting.

About 80 percent of 311 calls pertain to information about city services while the remaining 20 percent of calls are to report things like abandoned cars, potholes or garbage collection, according to Rosetta Lue, Philadelphia’s chief customer service officer and executive director for Philly311.

Mayot Michael Nutter first launched Philly311 in 2008, with the goal of making government services more accessible to residents. However, the economic downturn overshadowed making the service a priority, which is why Lue contends an upgrade was overdue.

“It was time for an upgrade, and the demand for our services outstripped our abilities,” she says.

Philadelphia continues to receive an increasing number of 311 calls each year, according to Lue, and the new cloud technology is equipped to help handle the influx while also organizing and mining the data to understand bigger trends. The platform will also let users track their requests.

“Because we’re planning on promoting the service in the future,” Lue says, “311 is another way we can implement the vision the mayor has for becoming more customer-centric.”

The pilot phase first launched in June and has been met with success, Lue tells the Philadelphia Business JournalPhilly311 is expected to be fully upgraded by the year’s end with added improvements to the website.

Once the pilot is off the ground, officials plan to launch a citywide assessment of the services, including 70 types of service requests and citizen engagement programs across the city.

Unisys is also in talks with the state of Pennsylvania for a $681 million contract to consolidate several different data systems into one cloud computing program.

“There’s always an adrenaline rush when you flip the switch and something goes live,” says Crystal Cooper, the vice president of Unisys Public Sector for North America. “And I’m excited, because the expectation is that citizens should be able to interact with their government 365 days a year.”

MORE: This Innovative Website Connects Mobile Phone Users to Vital Services

Comments