The City and County of Honolulu is home to 953,207 people. That's almost one million. That's a lot. The city is an island metropolis in the middle of the Pacific with the next comparable city more than 2,500 miles away. It is also a crossroad from East to West, home to Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, and Westerners. With nearly a million individual looking for information about city services there needs to be a perfect aggregation point for information dissemination. The logical answer is a city website -- and one that's chock-full of information. One like Honolulu.gov. Unfortunately, over time a website becomes a jumble of FAQs, pointers, links, drop-down menus, and press releases -- leading to complex site maps, link redirects, and (heaven forbid) "404 error: Page cannot be found." In short, a website rich with information isn't useful if the information cannot be easily accessed. In Honolulu, the City's website has been a continuous point of friction between City Hall and city dwellers. This year the City and County of Honolulu working with Code for America fellows have breathed innovation and new interfaces into City Hall. The first project the staff and fellows have tackled together is a simple basic interface for information sharing - a website, Honolulu Answers. Honolulu Answers is a first-of-its-kind for municipal government. It's a citizen-centric website that is question driven with clean, easy to navigate design. This simple site functions in capacity similar to Google - a search box where a resident can ask a question or type in key words using standard language. The website is not simply the brainchild of the Code for America fellows and Honolulu staff, but the result of extensive interviews with community members and usability surveys to find out how citizens interacted with the City's current website. With concept in-hand, and a list of City's the most frequently asked questions (kindly provided by the call center), the real challenge presented itself: How to populate the answer database? Enter, the first ever Write-a-thon - a community driven, crowd-sourced content fest to help populate the answer repository, with questions and answers common to all Honolulu residents.
- Are pets allowed at the botanical gardens?
- My family generates more waste than fits in the automated cart. Can I get another one?
- How far in advance can I reserve a camping site?
- What do I do about wild roosters?