The 450,000 residents of Miami speak different languages, represent different socioeconomic communities, and are of every age and technical ability. They needed a website that offered government services that were accessible to everyone. It needed to be mobile friendly and easy to navigate. A cookie-cutter site wasn’t going to work, and neither was spending too many of the tax payers’ dollars.
Mike Sarasti, the newly appointed Chief Innovation Officer, knew he had a big project ahead of him. With the help of OpenCities, Sarasti formulated a plan to revolutionize how his city engaged with the people who work, live and play in Miami.
Miami launched an Alpha website (a pilot site used for testing the new website strategy and content) and asked its citizens to give feedback on what worked and what didn’t. This allowed the city’s existing site to remain up and running while the staff and residents tested new online services and forms on the Alpha site. Early feedback from the people who would regularly use the site was critical to ensuring that the right government services were developed and made available to everyone who needed them.
Sarasti and OpenCities agreed that residents' feedback and just overhauling the look of the website would not solve the existing site issues of outdated information, a lack of online services and search capability, and cumbersome navigation. Thankfully, OpenCities provides in-depth training and best practices workshops for local government staff on a wide array of critical topics. Miami was one of the first US clients where OpenCities developed and conducted a Digital Service Academy (DSA) to train staff on a User Centered Design approach and create empathy for their community of website users.
As the Miami City Government was collecting feedback from its Alpha site and training staff, disaster struck. Hurricane Irma was headed toward land and Miami was directly in its path. Fears of flooding forced the City to find an alternative, and remotely hosted server environment for their website, or risk a communications nightmare. Citizens needed resources and information about every aspect of the emergency.
The OpenCities Alpha site proved to be an excellent solution for an emergency services site, as it was easy to modify content, add appropriate links to County and non-profit services, and it was hosted in the Microsoft Azure Gov cloud.
After resident engagement, training and even a trial in Emergency Preparedness, Miami has launched a beautiful digital services website that has revolutionized the way the City engages with its residents. The best part is, this platform will grow and transform over time as OpenCities continues to push through technology updates, new features and more.