Orange County Steps Boldly Into the Twentieth Century

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Someone please help me out if I'm missing some hidden value here, but it seems to me that Orange County has found a way to spend money on technology while serving a few residents as little as possible. According to a press release issued today (below) the county is installing monitors in three county buildings with the time, weather, traffic updates, and emergency alerts when they are available. Because, you know, when there is danger afoot the first thing I do is get in the car and drive to a government administrative building.

When I attended the presentation of the County's technology plan last fall, I heard a lot of technobabble about citizen engagement and delivery of services. I can't see how these glorified smart phones fit into the plan.

ORANGE COUNTY UNVEILS NEW PUBLIC INFORMATION TOOL

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (December 31, 2012)—The Orange County Public Affairs Office is introducing its Digital Message Monitor system as a new method of providing the public with pertinent details about Orange County news, programs and services.

The Digital Message Monitors are flat screen TVs that function as electronic bulletin boards. The initial deployment of the monitors can be viewed at the Orange County Main Library, Department of Social Services lobby in Hillsborough Commons, and the Gateway Center in both the Tax Administration and Register of Deeds offices.

“This project is a collaborative effort with the Information Technology and Asset Management Departments. The goal is to broaden the County’s public information efforts and make it convenient for residents to stay connected by viewing the announcements that include text, photos and graphics,” said Carla Banks, director of Public Affairs.

The announcements are displayed in a rotation, sharing the screen with a crawl feature, clock, current temperature, and traffic snapshots from I-40 and I-85. During times of an emergency or major weather alert, the details of that event will override the system and be displayed on the entire screen.

Additional Digital Message Monitors will be installed in more facilities throughout the County as part of the 2013-14 fiscal years. 

 

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16 Comments

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Money well spent

I will also head over to the appropriate county offices when I am in need of traffic updates -- unless I'm stuck in traffic.  Well - I guess it's a nice perc for county employess who don't have radios in their vehicles.Has anyone asked who authorized this minimalistic addition to county services?Is it Mgr. Clifton - the man behind the curtain?, or is it Chair Jacobs, who may have been on the job too long?

Jeff Miles's picture

I couldn't believe that they

I couldn't believe that they actually sent out a press release about this. It's like they were asking for criticism. I think a nice start would be a social media presence and an updated website--I just checked and they haven't changed the home page of their website since the end of the November and they have out-of-date info about the transit tax in the planning department section.

Serving the entire county

According to the press release, the screens are being placed at the public library and social services, both departments where patrons are not the most technically literate and who don't have strong cell signals or affordable access to broadband. It's kind of funny that last week there was a thread asking people to contribute to buying laptops to help bridge the digital divide for kids here in Carrboro and yet, this thread is so critical of an effort to make information available to residents in the northern section of the county.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

What need does this meet?

I'm not getting what community or personal need this is serving. People don't go to county buildings to learn the time and weather. Having a large non-interactive screen nailed to the wall isn't a replacement for having a cell phone or Internet access. Seriously, what am I missing?

What are the plans for the future?

When we put the energy display panel in Morrison, we started out small and had plans to grow the messaging as we learned more about what the students wanted. Every plan I've seen for similar projects at other universities takes that same approach. I don't know if that's the plan for this implementation, but I see the possibilities. In a recent article on mobilizing library websites, patrons wanted information on hours of operation, special events, and programs, all of which could be handled through the public information displays. 

Ed Harrison's picture

Lost Corner

As I learned many years ago from simply looking at a map, Bingham Township is in southern,  not northern, Orange County.  Patrick Mulkey has occasionally reminded OP users of this fact. The geographical center of the county appears to be in Hillsborough. Ed Harrison

It is fun to be all snarky

It is fun to be all snarky about the county's communication efforts and focus on the fact that time and weather will be scrolling along the bottom of the screens, but when I read the press release, it sounds to me like they will be putting up public service announcements, which I have seen in many other waiting rooms.  Maybe it will encourage someone to apply for an open county job or realize they are eligible for food stamps or get immunized or recycle more.  It seems like a good idea to try to educate people about county services while they are in one of the buidings.  

gercohen's picture

other locations

This seems to me a good idea IF a public feed or app is available so people can see the same display on their PC/smartphone or other agencies with monitors elsewhere in the county could display the same screeen

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Gerry is right on target

If the commitment is to inform the most citizens, than a public feed & app is the way to go.If appearing to be reaching out to the citizenry is a priority, then a few screens accomplishes that.An added thought: Orange County has a reputation for being one of the most progressive counties in North Carolina. This may be due to progressive policies that emanate primarily from Carrboro and Chapel Hill. I think that, generally, Orange County deserves to be considered one of the most progressive counties in NC. But we have a long way to go. One very important part of evolving into an authentically progressive county in NC is to have an authentically progressive County Manager. We can have a Biden or Obama type manager or we can have a Kucinich or Grayson type manager. We currently have a corporate style manager who is  reportedly smart, charming, and persuasive to the commissioners. But who would say that Mgr. Clifton is truly progressive? Actually - please chime in with support for his progressive, cutting-edge policy recommendations. I see a BOCC with generally strong ideals being damped down by a County Manager that has years of experience in the  mediocrity of bureaucratic support for generic economic development and a lack of vision for how the county can adapt and survive in this new era of corporate control of state and federal government. In fact, it appears that he is aligned with these corporate forces. This limited info project seems indicative of the general lack of vision that we have come to expect.