Originally reported for The Daily Free Press on April 15, 2013
Two Boston city programs have been recognized this year by International Data Group’s Computerworld Honors Program Laureate for their use of information technology to promote societal changes.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the awards were a great accomplishment and well deserved by the two Boston programs.
“We are thrilled with the recognition that both the Boston Public Computing Centers and Citizens Connect have received,” he said in a press release Wednesday. “Both programs use technology to improve the lives of Boston residents. From reaching out to close the digital divide and train underserved populations, to engaging citizens with a mobile app.”
Chief Information Officer for the Department of Innovation and Technology Bill Oates said programs can win a Computerworld award after being placed into several different categories, all of which benefit society in some way.
“We’ve been on a path over the last few years where we’re really trying to change the way we deliver services, trying to help do things like bridge the digital divide with some of our programs,” he said. “Boston, over the last couple of years under the Mayor’s leadership has really developed a reputation for leading in applying technology in innovative ways in local government.”
The first economic development award was given to the Boston Public Computing Centers, which set up 53 new public computing centers across the city. The program includes a digital literary skills course for Boston residents that has currently graduated 10,000 residents, Oates said.
“These are centers that are in libraries, housing developments and community centers, are essentially upgrading the technology, upgrading the Internet access to allow people to go in and use the technology if they don’t have the capability at home,” Oates said. “The other part of our program was our ‘Technology Goes Home’ program. [This] is our attempt to really reach out and bridge the divide and get folks to be able to leverage the digital age.”
The mobile app ‘Citizens Connect’ — also developed by the city of Boston — won an innovation award as well, Oates said. The app promotes direct communication with City Hall by allowing citizens to snap a photo of an issue or concern on their phones and submit it electronically with GPS location so the city can address it.
“We rolled it out a number of years ago and we keep adding new capabilities to it, and for us, this is our way of creating a new channel of engagement with our constituents using the power of smartphones and mobile technology,” he said.
Computerworld could not be reached for direct comment.
IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program selected 268 Laureates to be honored during the Annual Laureate Medal Ceremony and Gala Awards Evening June 3 in Washington, D.C.
John Amato, vice president & publisher of Computerworld said in a press release last month that his company is routinely pleased to honor those cities on the cutting edge of modern technology.
“Technology continues to play a pivotal role in transforming how business and society functions,” he said. “For the past 25 years, the Computerworld Honors Program has had the privilege of celebrating innovative IT achievements. These projects demonstrate how IT can advance organizations’ ability to compete, innovate, communicate and prosper.”
Oates said the next step in Boston’s technology development is to expand their ‘Citizens Connect’ app. Upgrades to the app will include enhanced communication between constituents and city workers.
“So let’s say you wanted to send us a request to fix a street light or a pothole in your neighborhood, what we’re going to be doing with our new release of Citizens Connect, is you will be able to put that request in,” he said. “The folks that fill that pothole for you will be able to take a picture of it and send it back to you; you’ll actually know who fixed your pothole for you. Through the course of the next couple of months we’re going to give our constituents the chance to give a high-five to the city workers that performed their service request.”