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Better government through civic engagement

You Can Build Your Own Mobile App without Writing a Single Line of Code. (Yes, You.)

You Can Build Your Own Mobile App without Writing a Single Line of Code. (Yes, You.)
One of the favorite things about my job is that I’m focused on how to make our customers’ lives easier. So I’m particularly excited to share the news of Accela’s partnership with APPCityLife, the grand prize winner of our Civic App Challenge earlier this year. Why am I so excited? While it’s great to hear stories about government agencies using mobile apps to increase efficiencies and connect directly to their citizens, it’s still a daunting prospect. Creating a mobile app often requires a) someone who majored in Computer Science and has mastered multiple, complex programming languages and b) a great deal of time and money to get an app up and running. Not anymore. Government agencies across North America (and Accela customers, of course) can now create and manage their own mobile apps in record time — in days versus weeks or months — without having to write a single line of code. The C......
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National League of Cities Recap: Live from Nashville!

National League of Cities Recap: Live from Nashville!
Several of my Accela colleagues and I recently spent the better part of a week in Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual National League of Cities conference. Compliments to the staff at NLC and the Nashville Host Committee for throwing a fantastic conference, and to the City of Nashville for being such a welcoming place to spend a few days in early November. It was a busy conference for Accela, with numerous presentations to give, an expo booth to run, educational sessions to attend, perhaps a few honky tonk bars to check out… but most importantly, thousands of customers to speak with. Here’s a quick run-through of Accela’s high points for the week. Reinventing the Business of Government panel Maury Blackman, our President and CEO, joined Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of Urban.us, Peter Pirnejad, Palo Alto’s Development Services Director, and moderator Aimee Rawlins, Startup & Innovation Editor for CNN Money, to discuss the current......
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The Case for Modernizing the Alcohol and Marijuana Licensing Process

The Case for Modernizing the Alcohol and Marijuana Licensing Process
Licensing is an intricate process, and for good reason — it is incumbent on governments to protect their communities, and they need a lot of information to make an accurate assessment of regulated businesses. What they don’t need, though, is all the paper pushing and managing data across multiple systems. Having worked in government myself, I know that regulatory restrictions make change difficult. But while cumbersome methods may work okay for awhile, even a small shift in balance (new regulation, new responsibilities, new requirements) can quickly topple any tentative stability. Things work, until suddenly they don’t. For example, take a look at three real-world scenarios below: After wrestling with four different systems to manage applications, renewals, and citations across 67 different counties, the State of Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board began searching for a consolidated licensing regulatory system – but had limited funding and infrastructure to manage the new solution. When a r......
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Keeping Track of What Is Happening in My Community with Civic Insight: Creating an Amazon.com experience for government…and much more

Keeping Track of What Is Happening in My Community with Civic Insight: Creating an Amazon.com experience for government…and much more
Today, I am proud to announce that Accela has entered into a strategic partnership with Civic Insight. In this blog post, I will discuss three tangible benefits Accela customers and citizens will gain from bringing the Civic Insight team into Accela. 1. Understanding what is going on in my neighborhood At Accela, we take a lot of inspiration from our neighbors in the Bay Area that are disrupting the way we do things. As such, we have also closely followed the success of nextdoor.com, which makes it easy for citizens to be up to date on what’s going on in their communities. We believe Civic Insight, which gives residents a new level of transparency – from what type of commercial property is being developed four blocks over, to keeping track of home improvement projects their neighbors are working on – is the logical extension of the idea of localization and has simil......
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The Mobile Citizen: What Makes a Good Mobile Tool? (Part 2 of 4)

The Mobile Citizen: What Makes a Good Mobile Tool? (Part 2 of 4)
This is the second post in a series on "The Mobile Citizen," a look at how the Civic Platform is helping agencies of all sizes engage their mobile citizen and stay ahead of the "mobile mind shift." ------ What makes a good mobile tool? This was the question I was asking myself as I read the results of the annual Digital Cities Survey. The survey identified technologies and initiatives that cities are likely to have an increased focus on in the coming year. Mobile technology ranked in the top 3, behind only cybersecurity and open data. As I thought about good examples I’ve seen as both a student of government and working in the industry, I kept coming back to a quote from Philadelphia CIO Adel Ebeid. To paraphrase, he said that a successful mobile tool solves a real pain point as opposed to being just "cool and fun." His city, Philadelphia, h......
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Making the Case for a Local Version of the U.S. Digital Service in California

Making the Case for a Local Version of the U.S. Digital Service in California
A California version of the highly acclaimed U.S. Digital Service (USDS) just took a big leap forward. In its recently released report, the Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan government oversight committee, has called on elected officials in Sacramento to create a local version of the federal program in the form of a new California Digital Service (CDS). For background, the USDS was created by President Obama in 2014 to make it easier and more efficient for Americans to interact with government services. The agency offers designers, engineers, product managers and others from the private sector the opportunity to work for the government for a week, a month or a year, and the work being done is impressive and impactful—from  improving services for America’s veterans, to modernizing our immigration system, to helping Americans access healthcare. In a blog post on TechCrunch back in March, I called on California Governor Jerry Brown to tak......
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