AkronOhio.gov has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of Ohio. Below you'll find an interview with Jim Jones, Webmaster for the City of Akron.
- AkronOhio.gov is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
Webmaster – I designed and programmed the site for citizen interactivity and for many departments to be able to update the site on their own.
- Can you summarize the history of Akron’s web portal?
The portal launched in 1996 when Time Warner’s Roadrunner service first came to our city. Akron may have been the first municipality in the U.S. to offer online tax filings in January of 2000. The Mayor's Action Center went online in August of 2000. Online Anonymous Police Tips received its first online tip Aug 14, 2000.
- What are the overarching objectives of Akron’s current e-government initiatives?
It is increasingly important for us to continue to provide more interactivity not only with our citizens, but with the global community as well. A strong, clear, communicative web site provides transparency in government for consumers.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by AkronOhio.gov, both on- and off-line?
Our city web site URL is on all City correspondence, our email signatures, billboards and advertising promotions for city events. Daily news releases are also released on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites and are emailed to hundreds of Akron area citizens.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Akron’s e-government services?
Each added interactive service added has been met with positive responses. The best response we see is that the usage of our web site continues to rise.E-filing numbers (for taxes) continue to increase every year – We're up to 8,500 annually.Online estimated income tax payments (for taxpayers where employers don't withhold income tax) – processed more than 32,000 payments since April of 2008.EFT (Employer Withholding) – processed more than 200,000 payments since January of 2003.Mayor's Action Center has received nearly 8,000 service requests since going online.Anonymous Online Police Tips near 4,700 tips to date. The Police Dept has just recently added an online Offense Report Lookup feature http://publicsafety.ci.akron.oh.us/police/online/reportlookup/OffenseReportLookup.aspx
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
Mayor's Action Center, E-Filing, News Releases including the RSS feed, Police & Fire Incident Reporting, Community Calendar
- Your site includes an online edition of the "City" magazine; how well-read is the online edition, and in what other ways does your portal strive to meet the information demands of citizens and the online community?
Unfortunately, we haven’t tracked the City Magazine’s success on line. Our formula has been simple. We listen to ides from the community and try our best to implement them. Criticism is also valued. Most importantly, though, we believe that by keeping our web site as simple as possible, it is accessible to greater numbers of our citizens, many of whom may still use dial up modems.
- When developing the Akron web portal what were some of the obstacles that had to be overcome?
Mainly the learning curve, especially when it applied to some veteran government workers who were resistant to the changes we were making to the way we communicated to the public.
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Akron’s web portal?
E-government in general will keep up with the demands of America’s communities because citizens will demand it. It’s more useful than ever as a tool to communicate effectively with citizens. We do have a couple of new functions in the works, including providing detailed information on the city parks and offering affordable city owned properties online.
- What else that you would like to tell us about AkronOhio.gov?
I want to continue offering additional, convenient online ways for citizens of Akron to interact with their elected official as well as their city services. We have cut down tremendously on the linear and lengthy process of taking phone calls for questions and complaints. With a few clicks, citizens can offer praise, complain, suggest and request information. We can, in return, quickly provide them with the response they need.