Civic Innovations

Technology, Government Innovation, and Open Data

Lots of Gov 2.0 Potential in Twitter Geolocation

So the new Twitter hotness will be the ability to add locational data to individual Tweets – not sure on exactly when this new feature will go live, but it will require someone wishing to add locational data to their tweets to:

  1. Explicitly opt in to this feature by changing their Twitter account settings.
  2. Utilize a Twitter client that is location aware, and can add lat/long to specific Tweets.

Twitter currently has some limited geolocation support that utilizes the account-level location field, but there is no validation on what is entered, so it is not terribly reliable.
The imminent support for “geo-Tweets” holds enormous potential for governments if you think of Twitter as another communications channel that citizens can use to interact with government. (Clearly, I do.)

Many government services are tied to a specific location – parks, libraries, motor vehicle offices, unemployment offices, etc. – and there are lots of good examples of information that governments generate that are location-specific – road closures and construction delays, pollution sites, crime incidents, etc.

As the application I built to query legislative information from the NY Senate Open Leg API demonstrates, Twitter can be used as a power application interface. It’s easy to use, available to people on a variety of devices and relatively easy for governments to set up. With the addition of locational data, Twitter will become an even more powerful interface for citizens to use when interacting with Governments.

Now, if a citizen wants to use Twitter to find out the hours of operations of libraries in their city or town, they can get an answer that is specifically tailored to their location – they can get a response back from a government application telling them the hours (and the address) of the library closest to their current location.

Governments need to think about Twitter as an interface to their services and applications – one that will soon be able to support location-specific data and responses. There is a lot of potential here for those interested in advancing Gov 2.0.

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About Me

I am the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia. I also served as Director of Government Relations at Code for America, and as Director of the State of Delaware’s Government Information Center. For about six years, I served in the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), and helped pioneer their work with state and local governments. I also led platform evangelism efforts for TTS’ cloud platform, which supports over 30 critical federal agency systems.

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