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Conover‚Äôs newest tech upgrade puts a host of city services in the palm of your hand ‚ÄĒ for free.
The city launched its ‚ÄúConover Mobile‚ÄĚ application recently, giving cell phone and tablet users an all-access look at the city virtually anywhere.
The web portal has already won a state award.
Conover was notified in December it was a second quarterly winner of the Government Innovation Grant award, a program intended to reward technology-based innovation across governments through incentives.
The GIGa program, administered through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill‚Äôs School of Government, looks for governments engaged in innovative, repeatable endeavors that help improve citizen services by increasing efficiencies, effectiveness and possibly creating cost savings, according to GIGa‚Äôs website.
Conover‚Äôs web portal was designed with free software and costs citizens nothing to use, something its creators think helped the city achieve the award.
‚ÄúWe did this for free without any additional costs to the citizen or the city,‚ÄĚ said Chris Niver, Conover‚Äôs director of Information Technology.
‚ÄúThe idea was, ‚Äėhow can we provide the citizens a better avenue to interact with the city?‚Äô‚ÄĚ
The mobile web portal provides links to Conover‚Äôs community news, Facebook and Twitter feeds, city calendar and website, among other content. The mobile portal also gives users the ability to report a crime, request trash and debris removal, and call city hall.
‚ÄúIt provides an additional service and communication conduit for citizens to engage the city,‚ÄĚ Niver said. ‚ÄúThis puts everything right in the palm of their hand.‚ÄĚ
For its award, Conover will receive a plaque to recognize the organization for its superlative technology investment, and they will be featured on the websites of NCLGISA and UNC School of Government's Center for Public Technology. The award also qualifies the city for a $10,000 grant that Conover will compete for at the end of this month.
Conover‚Äôs web portal is one of many mobile and online applications, portals and accessories local governments have launched recently to help citizens stay in touch.
Catawba County, for example, introduced its ‚ÄúMy Catawba County‚ÄĚ mobile application last year that provides links to job openings, traffic accidents and the county‚Äôs ‚ÄúWho‚Äôs in Jail‚ÄĚ website. The site also gives links to the county‚Äôs social media pages.
Catawba County Public Information Officer Dave Hardin said the county‚Äôs website activity has increased since the app went live.
‚ÄúI think it gets us into a new audience and that‚Äôs what‚Äôs most important about it,‚ÄĚ Hardin said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre getting our information out to a broader demographic.‚ÄĚ
Hardin said the county is constantly looking for new, convenient ways to connect to area residents.
‚ÄúOur technology department has done a fantastic job keeping us on or ahead of that curve,‚ÄĚ he said.
The county also launched a TV show last year entitled ‚ÄúCatawba Communities,‚ÄĚ which highlights different events, news and storylines in the county as well as in its municipalities of Maiden, Catawba, Claremont, Newton and Conover.
Those municipalities are also becoming more tech-savvy.
All of Catawba County‚Äôs major municipalities has a website that was recently upgraded or will be in future years.
Newton, for instance, has a new website that gives visitors access to web pages about the city‚Äôs history, special events, demographics, special forms and documents, city council agendas and minutes, public notices and contacts. The website has interactive videos and news stories about what‚Äôs going on in the city.
Newton Public Information Officer Gary Herman said the website re-design has drawn new visitors.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve seen a dramatic spike in visitors and even unique visitors, which speaks volumes about the content, the quality and how user-friendly our new website is,‚ÄĚ Herman said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs something we‚Äôre proud of.‚ÄĚ
The city does not currently have a mobile web portal, but Herman said the applications are something the city is looking at for the future.
Citizens can still access any of the county or municipal websites on their smart phone or tablet, even without a mobile web portal. For a full list of county and municipal links, visit catawbacountync.gov/links.