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Microsoft Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Serafima Al, Janakiram MSV, John Katrick

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Local 2.0 – Open 311 Search Service

The project that Tami won the AOL Innovation in the Community award for was essentially an early prototype of what the Young Foundation call ‘Local 2.0‘.

The project used open source software to create local online communities with the goal of better bridging the economic divide and also the generational one, encouraging more participation between key social groups like the elderly and disadvantaged kids.

Young has been conducting research to document this type of effect to help local councils adopt it as best practices in to their normal operations, and the objective of our overall ‘GovCloud 2.0‘ Cloud best practices program is to showcase the powerful technologies that are now available for this type of initiative.

Social ‘Crowd Computing’

Even in just a few short years the available technologies have moved on considerably. The Cloud has indeed accelerated Internet innovations and so councils now have tremendously powerful software systems and creative business models to call upon to tackle tough issues.

For example using nothing more than a simple blog, mapping technologies and ‘Crowdsourcing’ techniques the Hackney Citizen Advice Bureau set up this site, the Hackney Crowd Map, to highlight and help a situation impacting local residents due to cuts to housing benefits.

The ‘Impact Map‘ is entirely a perfect example of what ‘Social Impact Projects’ are all about, showing visibly the pattern of social effect these policy changes have.

Open 311 Search

This has been achieved through free software and ingenuity, which is great, but the real opportunity is that many government organizations have considerable IT budgets that could create a much more significant set of resources and central platform to achieve much more.

One example is ‘Open 311 Search’. This refers to a combination of the Open 311 standards initiative with enterprise Search technologies, such as Microsoft FAST.

How this can be combined is demonstrated through an example from the commercial world.

As described in the Matrix case study, Virgilio.it is an Italian portal competing with MSN and Yahoo, providing news, email, video and other content and apps to around 15 million users a month.

It also operates Virgilio Local, a network of 8,100 local community web sites, one for each town in Italy, with revenue-generating services such as a 1254 telephone directory service, an online directory and other similar products for small businesses wanting to be found by this volume of traffic.

Hence Search is of strategic importance, it’s become the primary method by which they match consumer demand to revenue-generating content, catering for users’ needs for editorial content and vertical services tailored for search, messaging, social networking, maps, classified advertising, travel and weather.

FAST enables a unified search search experience to support the 1254 service, and has made it easier for administrators in town sites to customize search results to meet their local requirements, and is also integrated with Bing Maps, so these directory searches can also pinpoint visual geo-locations to aid the process.

In a nutshell the same model can be repeated and applied to the public sector, the directory service function is exactly the same, only it’s a public service locator rather than businesses. This will be showcased in detail on the upcoming webinar.


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