Microsoft Townhall – a cloud-based platform for citizen engagement


The growing usage of social networks and the emergence of the real-time web are changing the way citizens expect to interact with their governments. Citizens are looking for experiences that are social, available to them 24x7x365 and accessible online via their PC, phone, tablet, or other internet connected devices. Governments want to answer that call and create a deeper engagement with citizens, but need to find creative ways to do this. Ways where they can provide a quality experience while staying within their budget and not overtaxing their IT staff. They must also do this in a way that makes the site accessible to citizens with disabilities as well an experience that is safe for younger citizens.


Microsoft TownHall is an online tool that fosters and houses conversations between governments and citizens. It is a place to ask questions, where the most popular or relevant questions bubble to the top, where all can quickly see timeliest topics at that moment. It was designed to be accessible on web browsers across multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) as well as software applications on multiple types of mobile devices (Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android). The software can be readily configured to support different styles of moderation, allowing you to host a traditional town hall Q&A (citizens ask questions, government employee answers), community forums (citizens interact with citizens), or an ‘idea site’ that serves as an online suggestion box.


TownHall is cloud-based, and is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform with a scalable, pay-only-for-usage model. This means that organizations do not have to pay for unnecessary hardware and bandwidth that might sit idle or worry about handling a crush of traffic around a spike in activity such as a particular campaign or consultation exercise. This makes TownHall an option for all of government – from the committees within local governments to the largest of national and international governments.


TownHall also delivers valuable insight. Recognizing the value of collecting data at the level of the individual, TownHall is delivered with a reputation system that incents users to create profiles. Every engagement an individual has with the site results in the collection of data that is associated with a profile and which can be used for analytics. To drive continued engagement within the community, TownHall’s reputation system awards points and badges for every contribution to the community (asking questions, answering questions, or voting). In our first beta customer, NASA, we’ve seen this reputation system prove itself to be very effective, with some individuals earning just under 2 million points in just under 6 months.


If you are interested in looking at a demo of Microsoft Townhall please goto http://www.microsofttownhall.com/ and for a video demo and additional details about CampaignReady and Townhall go to http://www.microsoft.com/industry/government/CampaignReady/default.aspx


There is also an MSDN site for developers to gem up on the platform


Posted by Phil


 

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