PDX CitySync is an ambitious, innovative project from the eGovernment Team and the City of Portland. To support the Portland Plan’s 25-year vision to better connect, serve, and grow our community, we looked at building an online platform to answer some big questions:
- How can we leverage the city’s previous open data efforts to increase civic engagement and interest in civic data?
- How can we give residents localized, customizable access to news and information about their communities and city?
- How can we tap into Portland’s high level of community activism and abundance of open source developers?
This project combines a large number of resources and technologies to create a powerful set of tools and services for Portland-area residents and local businesses.
Focusing on the User
At the start of any project, we ask ourselves “Who is this website/app/service for?” The challenge of defining users of a platform meant for an entire city was approached by identifying three key groups of users and features for each:
- Residents: CitySync provides a number of customizable features, from location-based news feed, transportation and transit alerts, community forums, and more.
- Business Owners: Registered business owners have tools to help grow their business, such as easy access to city-wide business statistics and a targeted way to promote to local customers.
- Web developers: Web developers can participate by taking advantage of the easy-to-use software developer kit (SDK) to build applications that extend the functionality of the site.
Overview of Features
PDX CitySync entered beta with a number of features and applications developed by the eGovernment team to showcase the platform’s potential:
- Alerts(Resident & Business): Users can configure personalized alerts and reminders for things like traffic, weather, garbage day, and due dates for their monthly water bill or quarterly business licenses taxes.
- Civic Idea Board(Resident & Business): An avenue to share and discuss ideas on how to make Portland a better place to live, work, and play, and to provide feedback to upcoming City Council agenda items as well.
- Event Calendar(Resident & Business): Provides a customizable calendar of events pulling from a number of resources around the City based on the user’s interest settings.
- PDX Reporter(Resident): Gives residents an easy way to browse and view issues in their area that have been submitted via the City’s mobile citizen reporting app, PDX Reporter.
- School Performance Browser(Resident): Built on data from the Oregon Department of Education, this app gives users easy-to-understand visualizations of performance data from schools in their area.
The Technology Behind CitySync
CitySync is built on Drupal 7 and uses a number of custom modules. One of the primary goals of the project was to engage civic-minded developers in the community, and we didn’t want to limit participation to only Drupal or PHP developers. The team built an innovative framework and SDK, allowing developers to create new applications for the platform in whatever language they’re most familiar with. These applications, once submitted and tested, are added to CitySync’s app store that a user can choose from to customize their experience.
Key Stakeholder Benefits
Each group involved in making CitySync a success can expect to benefit in the following ways:
- Residents: collaborate in making their needs known for certain types of information or services from the City or community to collect the necessary data.
- Business Owners: participate to extend their customer reach and access resources and information to help their businesses grow.
- Community Groups: contribute content to help get the word out about local news, events, volunteer and donation/sponsorship opportunities.
- City Bureaus: identify new tools and opportunities to reach out to – and engage with – their constituents through forums, targeted polling, and applications to help promote bureau services.
Try It Out
PDX CitySync is currently in beta and accepting public feedback. Visit the promo page and sign up for an account to begin exploring this innovative platform.