Carrboro launches online "Action Line"

Carrboro has launched a new online system to help residents interact with town government. The Carrboro Action Line is oriented toward facilitating communication with town staff on a wide range of informational and action items.

There is an article on the project in today's Herald.

We discussed improving the friendliness of the town web site at the board retreat last February. This strikes me as a big step forward, entirely from staff initiative and at a fairly low cost.

I'll be interested to learn of the experience of users of the system (as, I'm sure, will town staff who just rolled out the program). In particularly, you web savvy folks who've been riding Chapel Hill's case on technology, let us know what you think of this step for Carrboro.

Issues: 

Total votes: 68

Comments

This service looks like a great way to contact the correct staff member responsible for a specific area within Carrboro Town government. Removing barriers to communication is ALWAYS a good thing. I congratulate you in this step forward. :)

I noticed that this service appears not to be hosted by Town of Carrboro servers in Carrboro. It appears to be outsourced to a company in Ohio called Electronic Commerce Link, Inc. While I understand the reasoning behind choosing a Application Service Provider I fundamentally disagree with the choice.

Businesses and municipalities should spend money on payroll rather than outside services. I realize this can be expensive. But I'd rather see Towns hire more IT people than outsource potential new jobs. Human resource development is CRITICAL for future growth and for the ability to scale to future meet need.

Internal development and administration of web services gives you alot more fine control. In the future the Town could become locked into a externally hosted service that may not grow and change with the town. What if Electronic Commerce Link goes out of business? What if their lead developer finds a new job and leaves you in the learch? I understand this can happen internally too but as a community member I rather see these problems handled locally. Ultimately I'd say keep using this service but develop a plan to transition to a internal service in the near future.

Another aspect of this is data ownership. What does your contract with Electronic Commerce Link, Inc. say concerning intellectual property of the data collected? How about data privacy? Are copies of any data being created by citizens and or staff being made? (data is being created when you fill out the help form) Can the service provider mine the data and use the knowledge gained for their own business gain? I'd bet the Town attorney has looked into this. But if not he should. IMHO the increasing trend of governments relying on corporations to perform important services is a disturbing one. Idealistically as well as practically.

An increase in online Town services also demands the increase of Internet access for all community members. Carrboro has a great start with providing WiFi in town. Lets expand the WiFi coverage so everyone can get online to use this new help desk service.

 

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