City council to accept new technology and innovation task force

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Council member Shanna Draheim on the new task force.

Camille Douglas
Entirely East Lansing

EAST LANSING – The East Lansing City Council tabled the acceptance of the proposal for a new technology and innovation task force at their meeting March 8 until clearer details regarding the task force’s responsibilities is released.

A technology and innovation task force is a group of technological experts that assist a city in expanding technological communication to reach out to community members.

This force will not serve as another committee under the city of East Lansing. It will most likely consist of about two to three technological experts that will report a couple times throughout the year to analyze the technology concerns and communication needs of the residents.

Tom Crane, information technology manager of the city of East Lansing, proposed the idea to the city council.

“I believe that it is necessary to help the city of East Lansing determine their residents’ technology needs and requests,” Crane said. “Because we are attempting to address the technology concerns and requests of our residents, it is only fitting that we use a solution that is based on technology.”

In his proposal, Crane focused on how the council can reach out to a larger audience through social media. For example, he suggested the council begin streaming weekly city council meetings via Facebook.

When approved by the council, the task force will be responsible for formulating the creation of a social media platform, such as providing the council with the installment of webcams linked to Facebook.

For his research prior to his proposal presentation, Crane surveyed twelve nearby cities, including Lansing and Jackson, on their technology communication strategies. He found that none of the cities have an established committee or commission that meets to discuss technology concerns or needs for its residents.

As a technology manager, Crane sought the need to propose a new strategy to the council regarding his concern that the city is not reaching out to community members to their best abilities.

City manager George Lahanas assisted Crane in his presentation and advocated for the development of a task force.

“Technology offers a lot of ways to expand how government interacts with the audience,” Lahanas said. “What I want is a bunch of geeks, which I say in the most respected way, who are jazzed about technology sitting around discussing how to advance our technology communication. We can also refer to them when we are dealing with issues regarding technology use in the city.”

During the proposal presentation, City Council members offered their input on the creation of the task force and discussed how to expand its usage beyond social media. Council member Shanna Draheim suggested that the task force act more as innovators in discovering and introducing new technological programs, applications and other resources  to the council and to the community. 

“The thing I would like to emphasize is the innovation side of it,” Draheim said in the meeting. “When we look at communities that are thriving and are attractive, those communities are finding innovation not only through communications technology as part of sort of life improvements. If we are going to do this, I want to charge them with thinking broadly.”

When the task force will be implemented into the community and how much enforcing the force remains unclear until a new proposal is created and the council approves of the document. Mayor Mark Meadows anticipates the new proposal to be released and accepted within the next upcoming weeks.

“There needs to be a clearer focus with this proposal noting that the task force would be consistent with aiding the needs of the city government,” Meadows said. “As the city council, it is our primary goal to be able to communicate to our audience effectively and I think this technology and innovation task force will be one step towards expanding our outreach.”

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