Cities across the country are increasingly making snowplow-tracking data public in free mobile apps.
Transparent Government is a wonderful thing, but the interesting thing about it is that it does show up the weaknesses in people, technology and systems.
Too often it is about, let’s buy a piece of technology that will solve the problem. They aren’t wrong, technology will solve problems. But technology such as GPS also requires people with skills and a willingness to commit to the additional aspects of the technology. This may be a storm in a Boston teacup, but the facts are, any GPS system will produce reports and those reports are a great benefit, as long as they are used. So operational management need resources to monitor that the changes this technology was invested in to support are in fact invoked.
I can’t make any judgements on this particular story but it is very similar to many stories I have written about GPS technologies, for example the stories about people who are on home detention with GPS ankle bracelets. They remove them and go and commit crimes and no one is monitoring the fact that an alarm has gone off as a consequence. People who have constraints on where they can go and no one monitors the fact that they are outside of the geofence or in too close a perimeter of the person they are not allowed to associate with.
Then the technology gets blamed. I love location based technology and transparent Government. One way or another it forces us to make change for the common good. Pushing the change through to teams without considering on-boarding, training, workload and setting up processes with the resources to implement and manage them, can push people to ignore the technology and revert to the past practices re-exposing the gaps they were designed to plug.
No doubt this is an embarrassing situation for the people who suggested this technology, because customers are complaining that the job the system says was done, possibly wasn’t. However, in reality it’s done exactly what it was needed for. Now citizens are monitoring the performance of the commitments made by the Government and helping them to fine tune their systems, for free. The service will improve and they will all live happy ever after.
To me this is a success story, bringing citizens and Government closer together to get things done.