From slow update times, difficult navigation and the lack of a lot of information people might actually reasonably want from the city, to the use of proprietary content formats (such as Microsoft’s painful Windows Media Player format for city council streaming webcasts) and unintelligible and difficult to share URLs like:
There is, as they say, lots of room for improvement.
Some commentators have been complaining about the websites set up by individual council members, portraying them as just self-promotion for those politicians. While there may be some of that at play, the question that really concerns me in this is: Why did those councillors feel the calgary.ca website wasn’t adequate?
I’ve had my own speculations for a while now; primarily around bureaucracy and difficulty of use. Today, however, I got the chance to ask some of the council members directly. There were some points that stood out in those discussions. The administration of the existing site has very restrictive content policies, limiting what can be posted; the councillors do not have the ability to just post information for their constituents. There can be considerable delays in content going through the required channels before appearing on the site, greatly limiting the capacity for the timely sharing of the information that is allowed. The site is awkward for end users meaning that even if the information is somewhere on it, many users won’t be able to find it.
There are, however, some cracks in the tower of the City’s web infrastructure. The existence of the individual council websites is one part of that, putting pressure for change by embarrassing the main site. The new “Calgary City News Blog” produced by some staff at the City and the City of Calgary’s Twitter feed are providing avenues that are opening up the City’s flow of information a bit, but which also end up highlighting inadequacies of the calgary.ca site.
I think we may, finally, be hitting the point where the City may be ready to begin replacing the old, inaccessible and restrictive, calgary.ca website with internet access for citizens that opens things up not just to rapid information flow and access, but also to citizen input in the vein of so-called “Government 2.0”.
This is looking to be quite exciting, and could potentially contribute to a real advance for local democracy. Colour me actually hopeful.
This could be an amazing project to be a part of. I actually envy those folks at the city who will get to be a part of designing and building the new systems. (Now, who do I have to talk to to get them to hire me as a project lead on designing this new web infrastructure? [he said with a sigh…] )