East Lansing looks to technology for improvements

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Chairman Doug Couto said he has great hope for the panel's future.

Vice Chairperson Jonathan Irvin discusses the new website with IT Director Thomas Crane.

Marsya Mohd Johari

Vice Chairman Jonathan Irvin discusses the new website with IT Director Thomas Crane.

They are a group of citizens who willingly meet up once a month at East Lansing City Hall. They are the Citizen Innovation and Technology Panel and, judging by the two people who attended their Feb 15. meeting, they are not yet well known in the community. One audience member was city councilman Erik Altmann, who acts as the liaison for the panel.

“We’re just getting started,” said Chairman Doug Couto. The committee members had its first meeting in September last year so they’re fairly new to the community. The seven member panel are diverse in terms of their expertise and backgrounds. The one thing tying them together is their passion to improve the community. Each member was selected by Altmann and the Information Technology Director Thomas Crane. “We all bring something different to the table,” said Vice Chairperson Jonathan Irvin.

Altmann had pressed for this panel when he was campaigning for City Council a year and half ago. He felt that the city would be better if it integrated more technology. “I don’t know much about technology but these good folk do. That’s why I put this panel together.” The panel collaborates with the city to improve through technology. It also works very closely with Crane. He hopes that even if the panel does not become a commission next year he would still be able to engage with panel members for their input.

Thomas Crane works closely with the panel and appreciates members' input.

Thomas Crane works closely with the panel and appreciates members' input.

During the meeting, the panel discussed changes to the city’s website. Crane says he wants to really improve the city’s engagement with the website, citing inspiration from the way Manhattan, Kan. handles its website. The panel agrees that the website would benefit from improving the search engine and including a public opinion page. It also discussed the process of designing an new app that would hopefully include a parking module. Crane says one of the most searched items on the website includes how to pay for a parking ticket and job applications. They would like to address those search items and make it easier for East Lansing residents to find more information. The panel also strongly agreed that the city’s website should include a way to allow East Lansing residents to register for parking.

The panel wishes for more engagement with the city and discussed a robotics competition. And as the panel meetings will soon be moved to the East Lansing Public Library, Altmann also suggested that the panel start advertising on the computers there to get more publicity.

Chairperson Doug Couto said he has great hope for the panel's future.

Chairperson Doug Couto has great hope for the panel's future.

“Technology is a competitive edge for any organization, including government. We want to make East Lansing a people place look to as a model for technology and how we serve our citizens.” Says Couto. The next Citizen Innovation and Technology Panel meeting will take place on March 15 and all East Lansing residents are welcome to attend.

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