Government

Streamline government on the iPad with iLegislate

Scott Lowe reviews iLegislate, an iPad app for government staff, elected officials, and counsel members.
Note from Scott: This is going to be a bit different than my normal app review. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the folks at Granicus, and I'm impressed by what they've done and their desire to improve transparency in the government process.

In 1999, three men had a dream: How could local governments streamline their legislative operations while, at the same time, improve citizen engagement? These three men -- Tom Spengler, Emery Jones, and Javier Muniz -- decided to take action and formed Granicus, Inc., a company that has become a leader in government transparency.

Granicus exists to assist the public sector entities in creating more transparency by automating the legislative process by helping entities bundle the plethora of documents that are used at public meetings and consume them in a paperless way. In addition, Granicus has worked with all levels of government to answer this question: How can we build automation into the public-facing government process to make it easier to make transparency happen in the eyes of the citizens?

The Granicus platforms are intended to improve efficiency and reduce costs. As governmental entities start becoming more transparent, it hopes to ensure that citizen involvement is meaningful and impactful. This is one of the areas where the platform shines.

Here's an example of what the Granicus platform did for the city of Long Beach, CA:

  • The city saved $3.1 million from reduced paper and staffing costs
  • Public access was significant improved
  • The council-based governance process was streamlined -- agendas, minutes, and reporting were improved
  • With additional transparency, citizens are better able to hold their elected officials accountable
  • The city created a permanent digital repository for support of policy, management, and decision-making

But, as technology has advanced, Granicus knew they could do more... and they have. For existing customers, Granicus is now making available an iPad app called iLegislate, which can be downloaded from the App Store.

iLegislate is targeted at staffers and elected officials in customer accounts. The tool enables an elected official to get all of their documents before the meeting, to take any notes that are necessary, send questions/comments to people from whom information is required, research items, and more. Next, the person goes to the meeting with the iPad, which is loaded with everything they need to be successful. The goal is to further streamline the meeting process.

Granicus started the iLegislate app as a spare time project, but it grew quickly once they started talking to their clients about it. They showed it to a few people, and soon beta groups were created. From those beta groups, Granicus spent a year getting feedback and integrating recommendations. Today, the company is at more than 1,500 downloads, and they appear to be getting substantial adoption.

And now, for some stats: One municipality alone -- Maricopa, AZ -- using iLegislate is saving more than $5,000 per year on paper, as they are now 100% paperless at council meetings. Maricopa also estimates that they're saving more than 200 hours of staff time per year on council agenda packet production. These kinds of efficiencies can really start to add up.

iLegislate is not a standalone app, though. The app itself is free, but it connects to Granicus' existing cloud-based systems, so organizations need to be running Granicus' Government Transparency Suite or Legislative Management Suite in order to use it. The company indicates that users across the skills spectrum have had little to no problem learning how to use iLegislate.

As a company, Granicus is currently focusing their efforts on the heart and soul of city operations -- public council meetings. The iLegislate app is targeted at the staff and council; at present, the app isn't a citizen engagement tool, a need serviced by other Granicus solutions. However, the company has not ruled out further work in the future to improve citizen engagement via an app.

I've included a couple of screenshot of iLegislate below.

Figure A

An agenda
Figure B

Item details

Summary

While many of you won't be able to use iLegislate, it's important to watch these kinds of developments. They provide new ideas for other verticals and also highlight ways by which business problems can be solved. It's also important to see that there are governments out there attempting to reduce costs and improve citizen engagement.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

2 comments
martian
martian

Funny how you have "council" spelled properly in your Figure A of the article, yet still failed to spell it correctly in the opening paragraph of the article. I always wonder if it is simply laziness or stupidity, but either way, it keeps happening...

Professor8
Professor8

This helps explain why local government is messed up. They focus on "gathering documents" for the purpose of changing local ordinances and regulations instead of simply taking care of their limited business. No, let's not defend the public from initiation of force and fraud; instead, we'll install surveillance cameras every few feet, and bury the public under documents and micro-regulation... regardless of state and federal constitutional limitations.