What’s the most tech-savvy city government? San Jose? New York City? How about Scottsdale, Arizona? That’s where the police department is using Twitter to send updates to the public, like when a road is closed or when police are at a crime scene in your neighbourhood.
The Scottsdale police department has its own Twitter account, and even though it only has a paltry 174 followers as of this morning, the department seems to be dilligently updating, with messages like “Hayden Road, from Camelback to Ind. School, is closed for a fatal traffic collision,” or like “Watch out for city crews cleaning up debris along Pima and Scottsdale roads in the northern parts of the city.”
Kudos to the Scottsdale P.D. for trying out new communications tech. But is Twitter ready to be a real-time, mainstream connection between local government and residents? Probably not exclusively: It’s not always reliable; it costs money to receive text messages; there’s no security guarantee; and you can’t easily target messages to groups of people, either by geography or demographics. But we think short text message updates are a fine complement to other government communications. (Indeed, the FCC is working on a SMS-based alert system, due in 2010.)
In the meantime, other potential Twitter applications: The California Department of Transportation could use Twitter to update us on traffic jams. Or the MTA could use it to send out subway updates in New York.