As of June 2021, 14,580 people live in Elva municipality. The municipality was formed in the autumn of 2017 due to administrative reform and consists of the former city of Elva, Konguta, Puhja, Rannu, Rõngu, and partly Puka municipality. After the reform, the municipality needed an even more effective tool to reach their community. With the help of Future Dialog, Elva municipality’s app was created at the beginning of 2019, which has now been downloaded more than 2,500 times. We asked Merilyn Säde, the communication manager of the municipality, how the app has served them so far and how the community has welcomed it.
According to the communication manager of Elva municipality, the idea of creating the app came from the “Crazy Ideas Seminar” organized for the preparation of the development plan of Elva municipality, where residents had the opportunity to offer up ideas that would promote life in their hometowns. “With the community app, we were most excited about the opportunity to ask people for feedback quickly and the fact that they can ask questions on various topics. It is also important to mention passing on information to residents and guests via the app,” Säde describes. According to her, the app is great for users of smart devices – the website of the municipality is not visited every day, and information on Facebook gets lost quickly. “Push notifications allow us to display the subject of the notification on people’s devices – if it interests them, they read the full story; if not, they don’t. However, we are confident that the majority of users will be aware of the most important topics this way – even if they only read the title,” Säde specifies.
Government in people’s back pocket
The clearest example of the necessity of the Elva app was revealed with the COVID-19 crisis in the spring of 2020. According to Merilyn, a lot of confusing information was published by the government, which was then passed on in simplified terms on the municipality’s channels. “Looking at the behavior of the users of the app, we saw that various topical news was read more from the app, and above all, information related to the coronavirus was opened the most. We feel like with the app, the municipality is closer to the community, sort of like in their back pocket, because they can conveniently give feedback and read the latest news. Our app gathers together different municipality pages, so it’s like a direct channel to get the most essential information, ” she summarizes the importance of the app for them.
Feedback that inspires action
Information is distributed to the Elva community about 3-4 times a day, and push notifications are mainly used to deliver the content. “We have spread out news to send them at different times throughout the day, and we also take into account when people have time to surf their phones – mostly at lunch or in the evening. That’s why we usually ask for feedback at noon or in the evening,” she explains. On the other hand, she acknowledges that reading news is primarily related to people’s interests, and news about current affairs is read the most. “It is possible to give feedback on any municipality issues through the app, but people use it almost 100% to give feedback on city maintenance and the conditions of roads and sidewalks. For us, the two most used functions are collecting feedback and sharing information,” she describes.
If the local government is not very active on social media, Säde suggests using a community app as one of the channels that provide an opportunity to inform people directly. “In a crisis, it is a good tool to share operative and most importantly, reliable information. It also makes it easier for community members to give feedback to the municipality,” she concludes.