Local Government Magazine
Emergency Management

Leveraging technology to manage a crisis

As we went into pandemic lockdown, local councils across the country had to shut their parks, community centres, communicate updates to their residents and do it all at a fast pace. One council found its early adaption of a mobile app proved vital in its communications with its community. Story supplied by Datacom Local Government.

Gore District Council is a small, rural council located towards the southern tip of the country with a population of 12,000 plus, It’s an example of how local governments can use technology to snap into action, keep communication lines open and help their community through a time of crisis.

The council implemented Datacom’s mobile app, Antenno, last year to upgrade its two-way communication with residents, especially during times of crisis.

“In February, a State of Emergency was declared for Southland when we were hit with flooding. In the Gore District we evacuated over 3000 residents from two towns,” says Sonia Gerken, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Gore District Council.

“We found Antenno as a critical communication tool to help manage the crisis and keep people informed.

“Six weeks later, we went into lockdown. The increase in engagement and downloads we achieved during the flooding helped us manage this next wave of issues.”

During the lockdown, the Gore District Council created content, including council alerts, notifications and engagement opportunities, which are allocated a topic and are map-defined to an appropriate and relevant area to ensure residents were up-to-date with the latest pandemic information. The public received this information directly on their smartphones.

“It was a really good tool to deliver information quickly and to directly connect with our community. The fact Datacom created a Covid-19 category was great,” says Sonia.

“It’s so important in crisis communications to ensure consistency, regularity and clarity of messaging.”

From day one of lockdown, the council would send out an update every day at 5.00pm.

“We did this for 33 days straight. It not only became a source of information, but I believe that for those isolated by lockdown, it was a connection with the outside world,” says Sonia.

The Antenno platform also provided the council with usage reports and analytics, so it knew how successful posts had been. This included how many people received the message, the level of engagement (interaction) and topic preference trends.

“Our engagement levels were averaging around 65 percent of people who have downloaded

the app, which is very pleasing.”

The Council also saw an increase in the number of people downloading Antenno and, in early May, it became the leading council for downloads, per capita.

The council says Antenno has replaced lengthy emails and the need to watch social media channels for messages as members of the public can now receive specific communications directly. Examples of this included advice on how to self-isolate, what services are available and what are shut.

As one resident commented; “Using the Antenno App kept us up to date with what was happening and what time we were allowed back home. It worked well, was factual information and it was really good. The communication given to residents was excellent. It was timely, clear and thorough.”

And the council says it has found it easy to create posts and target relevant residents – like those who may be more vulnerable to Covid-19 – while the public has enjoyed receiving direct messages that are specifically useful to them.

Residents can also submit reports with photos, improving communication between the public and the Council, says Mark Matijevic, Datacom director, Local Government Solutions.

“We created Antenno to help public sector organisations, like Gore District Council, and the public equally. It’s wonderful to see the positive impact Antenno has had during a particularly challenging time.”

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