Town of Cary Technology Task Force Report

Cary Technology Task Force Recommends

Cary, NC – In July of 2012, the Town of Cary commissioned the Technology Task Force (TTF) to study technology and engagement for the town. Over a four month period, the nine members of the original task force studied a wide scope of questions including municipal websites, mobile applications, social media, open data, video, Cary as a community tech hub, legal issues and sustainability.

The final report for the TTF was delivered in December of 2012. The report is no longer found on the Town Website, so we thought it beneficial to list the summary recommendations and then ask the reader if these recommendations are still valid.

TTF Overarching Policy Recommendations

  1. The Town should give the same care and attention to planning and implementation of our virtual properties as the Town spends on its physical properties.
  2. Adopt an Open Data and a Public API Policy
    • Critical to support “Cary is a Community Technology Hub”
    • Will allow for independent Mobile application development
  3. Make Cary a “Community Driven” Technology Hub
  4. [Vision:] Cary actively supports Technology User Groups, Hack-a-Thons, School Technology Partnerships, Code for America Brigades, etc.

    • Make Cary a location of choice for people moving into the Triangle area who are taking technology positions.
    • Will attract highly-skilled technology professionals
      • More affluent and active demographic
      • Could help balance the aging population demographic trend
    • User Groups can provide the Town advice on Technology implementation and sustainability.
    • Will have a positive influence on the development of mobile and other apps in the Town.
    • Will support Economic Development in the Town
    • Will support and promote Technology Education in the Town
  5. Promote Citizen Engagement
    • 2-Way Communication Policy
    • More people involved in the community
    • Town gains an on-going feedback mechanism
    • Claim the Town’s social media properties
  6. Develop Generation 6 Website (or Websites)
    • Integrate with Social Media Channels
    • Incorporate open data and mobile responsiveness
  7. Develop an official, simple mobile application to gain experience developing and deploying mobile applications
  8. Re-envision the Video Production Department
  9. Provide Leadership for Technology Related Legislative Issues
    • Protect our citizens from new age threats to their privacy and security.
    • Use Technology to enhance citizen participation in the decision-making process.
    • Allow us communication methods with our youth that are not public record.
  10. Encourage Partners to Adopt Parking Lot Items
    • Technology Education
    • Economic Development
Imagine Cary project image

Cary Adopts Powerful Citizen Engagement Tool

Cary, NC – As part of the $909,000, 3-year Imagine Cary process, the Town of Cary has adopted Mind Mixer to collect citizen input from citizens who could not attend the ‘Summit on the Future’ or any of the 5 ‘Area Conversations’ (Press Release).

While will debut with the Imagine Cary project, the Town of Cary plans to use the tool to garner feedback on other larger-scale initiatives. The Town will pay $6,000 annually to maintain the site.

The first recommendation in the Citizen Engagement section of the final report of the Technology Task Force (TTF) was: ‘Evaluating community engagement tools such as MindMixer’ (ref p. 36 of 239).  The TTF and Technology Tank supports the Town of Cary in adopting Mind Mixer.

What do you think about municipalities using tools like Mind Mixer?

What do you think about the ‘bang for the buck’ of $6,000 annually to maintain this new citizen engagement site?

Code for America Cary Logo

A Look Inside: Code for America Cary

Cary, NC – What is civic hacking for social good? Who or what is Code for America?

Lets take a look at what is going on with the Code for America Cary Brigade and maybe you will find out. (Full disclosure, I am an organizer and member of the Cary Brigade)

The Cary Brigade formed in May 2013 as a development of the Cary Technology Task Force, the subsequently formed Technology Tank, the first Cary Open Data Day and the support of the vibrant Raleigh Brigade of Code for America. The Cary Brigade has decided to start with visualizing commercial permit data in the town of Cary.

Code for America aims to improve the relationships between citizens and government. We help governments restructure to create low-risk settings for innovation, engage citizens to create better services, and support ongoing competition in the govtech marketplace.

Tuesday, July 23 was the third meeting of the brigade (we meet monthly). On May 24, 2013 we received commercial permit data files from Cary in response to a public records request from member Robert Campbell. We received 9 data files most likely from a relational database.

At our June meeting, the Google AppEngine was discussed as a way to develop the ‘back-end’ of the application. The first issue we encountered was that the file with the property locations had all of the geo-locations zeroed out, so an effort was made to geolocate all of the 79,000+ records (with a method that still has not been disclosed…) Since then, there were 2 different efforts to house and use this geocoded information:


With the help of Reid Serozi, just hired by Socrata, The Cary Brigade was offered a Socrata Community Data Platform.  Here is what we were able to do in an hour with the Socrata platform:

Property Data set on Socrata

Property Data set on Socrata

Socrata Visualization - Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization - Point Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Point Map of Cary Property Data

During the meeting, Reid showed us how the point map could be accessed and displayed on his smart phone.

Brandon Smith took another route and used Parse as his data repository and with some awesome code was able to provide a simulated app from the data (we did not ask how long this took…):

Parse data file

Parse data file

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties in my Neighborhood

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties in my Neighborhood

Where do we go from here?

There is more investigation into the data, as we are not sure that we have the information that would allow the app to answer a compelling question. More data scrubbing, another public data request(?) and more investigation into the front-end display of the information.

If you are interested, please join us. You can contact Ian Henshaw for more information.

Tech Task Force: Presentation to Town Council

First published on

Cary, NC – Cary’s Technology Task Force presented it’s final report to Town Council on Thursday December 13, 2012. You can watch the video right here or on YouTube. Read more