The rising tide of social media and mobile devices means people are talking about what matters to them in a very public way wherever they are.

Cities and large businesses have an unprecedented array of tools available for communicating with constituents and customers. As the number of communication technologies grows, trends emerge. However, cities and organizations can find themselves struggling to stay in sync with their constituents and customers as the latest and greatest communication channels evolve. All too often, they’re drowning in unusable information.

Technology should make gleaning information from this communication easier. The key to gathering valuable insight from those channels is being able to organize the data coming in and deliver information to the right people.

When you’re looking for the best tools to facilitate communications with constituents or customers, find a platform that is built for your specific requirements. If your system is making good use of the data it’s receiving, you should be able to communicate with your entire audience base with minimal effort.

In a crowded market, a few platforms dedicated to facilitating communication and collaboration have emerged that offer cities and organizations the precise tools they need. The platforms in IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center for Citizen Collaboration technology facilitate collaboration with citizens around a 3-1-1 platform. Through the technology, citizens can upload to the system information about potential problems around the city or comment on how that particular issue is affecting their neighborhood, for example.

These comments not only give city managers insight into issues impacting their residents, but allow them to determine the best response and communicate that action plan to the public. The technology can easily be used to coordinate communications on university campuses or across large enterprises, or scaled up for much larger applications.

An example of this type of technology in action is the system launched on World Water Day in South Africa. Citizens shared information about infrastructure problems and other flaws in the water system that were impacting the quality and availability of clean water. With the technology at their disposal, South African citizens are able to communicate the water problems impacting their everyday lives, and government officials were able to see where they needed to focus repair and restoration efforts across the country.


Element Blue is focusing heavily in this space in collaboration with existing solutions. Here are two other tools that facilitate better communication and collaboration.

  1. 1). Element Blue’s Citizen-Reach™: This platform takes unstructured data and information from multiple sources (social media and SMS text messages, for example). It then helps to organize and deliver that information to a city or business in a way it can understand—and act on—in a single place. At that point, users not only have valuable answers at their fingertips, they also can forward and share that information with the most appropriate departments in their organization to coordinate the best response across city agencies and departments.
  2. 2). Element Blue’s Community-Hub™: This platform combines a city’s existing technology with core IBM technology to provide an exceptional social experience for a community, its citizens or members, and city or organizational leadership. Element Blue has created a robust, enterprise-class solution that will allow for the delivery of an engaging web experience with real-time information to residents, developers, and retail and commercial operators within the community and beyond.


The meta data that surrounds the conversation in each of these platforms is just as important as what is being discussed. The meta data will often determine who in city management or within the business organization should see the conversation, how urgent a response is required, and how best to respond to requests from the community. Without the specifics offered by meta data, you run the risk of over-communicating and turning people off, or under-communicating and not being responsive to your citizens’ needs.

In your search for better communication tools, look for a platform that will not only integrate collaborative elements that keep you in sync with your constituents or customers, but also has the capability of delivering the organized data that will maximize the effectiveness of your response.


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