The covid crisis of the past 16 months has made it crystal clear that technology is an absolutely essential element of city government and that access to technology is a critical equity issue in Framingham that needs to be addressed.
Technology is the primary platform for information to be shared with residents, for resident provide feedback to city officials, and for collaboration between and among city officials and residents. Without well-tuned technological resources, we disadvantage all of our residents but particularly those who are already facing challenges: the poor, older residents, immigrants, and those with disabilities.
Though there are some positive aspects in our city government’s use of technology, there are significant issues that have not been addressed. One reason for this inaction is the loss of the standing technology committee that was a fixture in our town meeting form of government.
For these reasons, at the August City Council meeting, I will propose the creation of a new technology steering committee that will help Framingham to use technology in ways that can better serve our residents.
The members of this committee would include the city IT department, a City Councilor and a School Committee member, members of other boards, and residents and business owners who could bring their own technical expertise to the table.
Among the things that need to be addressed include:
- A vastly improved website that puts ease of use and clarity first before any bells and whistles. Getting to key services should take 1 or 2 clicks not 5.
- A standardized way that meetings are posted and meeting materials are made available to residents. This should include agendas that link directly to individual documents so that residents don’t have to sift through 100-page PDFS to follow along.
- The creation of a city Facebook page that mirrors all programming that is provided by Framingham Government TV. This is already being done by our school department and there’s no reason that individual committees and subcommittees should be responsible for streaming to Facebook.
- A clear policy that empowers our IT department to fulfill FOIA requests. Boards should not be searching through their own emails to meet requests.
- An energized collaboration between our city IT department and the Framingham Public Schools, our libraries, the Callahan Center, and other community groups to help provide equitable access in our city. This should include universal public wifi broad and extensive distribution of devices and training.