City of Ardmore introduces new texting messaging information system

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite
This screenshot shows how Ardmore's new TextMyGov system operates. While the "garage sale permit" request says it cannot find a match, the first result shown when clicking the link allows the user to view and download the permit.

The City of Ardmore has introduced a new text messaging based system to provide another option for citizens to get information and report issues. The system uses a mobile phones regular messaging service to relay the information. By texting a phrase or keyword to 580-300-0099, citizens can then receive material relevant to their request.

Director of IT Robert Newell said part of what he likes to refer to as the Access Ardmore Initiative.

“This is a way to make it easier for the citizens to get the information they want more quickly,” he said. “It also allows people to have more of a conversation with the city in regards to how they relate to us. It certainly does not replace human interaction, but when we look at the statistics of how people access information these days, up to 70% of it is on their phones. And texting has become a very big portion of that information.”

In setting up the system, Newell worked with the various city departments to find out the most common questions they received. 

“We created a list of some of the key buzzwords, so when you text those in, it will then direct you to where that information is — whether thats a person or a location on the website,” Newell said.

The system also allows people to report problems such as potholes or streetlights that are not operating.

“If you see a pothole, you can text ‘pothole’ to the number,” Newell said. “It will ask for the cross street and if you could take a picture of it. It also asks for your permission to use your GPS at that moment to identify the latitude and longitude to help us locate it. Once we’ve got the information, we’ll send it to the right department, and it asks if you want to be contacted once the problem has been addressed.”

The system also allows for various departments to create surveys for citizens to take to find out ways they could improve their services. The Ardmore Police Department is currently conducting a survey, and interested citizens can fill out the 12 questions by texting “PD Citizen Survey” to 580-300-0099.

Newell said the system will become more and more helpful as more people use it, and new features will be added in the coming weeks and months.

“Of course we didn’t think of everything that anyone could possibly ask, but if someone sends a keyword in that we didn’t code I can research that information and get that added in for the next person,” Newell said. “So we’ll be adding new keywords all the time. Texting is a big part of our lives now, and we want to utilize what’s most convenient for people.”