I’ve been asking myself how local governments could use their websites to help them govern more effectively and save money. The question led to this post.
Building Bridges in Communities
Reading through one of the local weekly papers in my area I noticed a large public notice announcing a public hearing for the replacement of a bridge leading into a nearby town from one of the major north-to-south roadways that provides a main access point into the center of that town.
The announcement provided a fair amount of details about the bridge project and the meeting, as well as a phone number to find out more and to get a copy of the written plan for the renovation of the bridge. It also included an email address which you could use to send comments about the plan. But something was missing…
What was missing was a web address where readers could see the plan online, download it, and possibly post comments for others to view. If that written plan was placed online, people with an interest in the plan wouldn’t have to call and take up the time of someone sitting at a government desk. There wouldn’t be a need to spend money on postage and copying costs mailing the plan out to people who could otherwise view it online, or have people come into their office to view the plan in person.
It may be possible that governmental web sites are at least as important, and in some cases more important that most of the other web sites online. They can provide information on when and where to vote, when and where laws are being made, when and where you can access elected and appointed officials, and information about possibly a large number of services that goverment may provide, from trash pickup and some utility services to police and fire and rescue information.
Sometimes you just really need to know how to get to City Hall, or to the Courthouse steps.
I like old buildings and local history, and learning about how towns and areas have grown and developed, and I put together a little project that might give me a quick glimpse of some of the history of each state in the US.
It seemed like an easy task to start with, creating a Google My Maps display of the location of the Capitol Building for each State in the US. I was wrong. It wasn’t easy. One problem was possibly that the place shown in the image below is known as “The Capitol Building” may not have helped. But there were other problems as well.
I did manage to create a map of the US Capitol Buildings, though I’m considering it to still be a work in progress. But what I learned making the map confirmed some thoughts about the limitations of search and search engines, and some of the problems I’ve seen with Google Maps and with govenment web sites.
A question from a recent visitor asked about how to get a government web site to link to their site. It was a good question, and I sent a response with a couple of ideas, and a postscript noting that it was such a good question that I was considering writing a blog post on the topic.
First, I want to mention that their question really had nothing to do with the idea that a link from a government site would somehow increase their rankings in the search engines more than links from other pages. But, let me address that aspect of links from government sites briefly.
Is a link from a .gov or a .edu worth more than a link from another set of pages? The truth is that we don’t really know.
There are a handful of references in patent applications and whitepapers that say positive things about government web sites. For instance, the Google patent application Information retrieval based on historical data says this about links from government sites: