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The city of West Palm Beach, Florida, is on to something.

The popular tourist destination, and home to 100,000 residents, has embarked upon its own digital revolution of sorts. In an effort to develop business, bring digital communication to the underserved, and make its citizens feel more connected to the local government, West Palm Beach has pulled out nearly all the technological stops.

To bridge the digital divide between wealthy and impoverished populations, the city has installed free Wi-Fi in many public places, including its famous waterfront and the public library. Two Youth Empowerment Centers now include audio/visual recording labs to encourage teens’ multimedia skills and interests. Additionally, in terms of constituent outreach, a planned “Tele-Town Hall” will enable residents to connect with city officials via phone, local television, and social media.

So what more could West Palm Beach do to optimize its technological prowess? Add more telepresence…

Telepresence technologies could enhance the city’s digital offerings in every area of its technology overhaul. For example, imagine a telepresence room adjacent to the audio/visual labs at the Youth Empowerment Centers. The young people learning at these centers could connect with experts in film and music production, speak with them face-to-face, and ask key questions about how to master new techniques or make it as professionals in the field. These are connections some young people might never otherwise have, considering travel, financial, and time restrictions on both ends. Likewise, envision the upcoming “Tele-Town Hall,” but see it in color, in real-time. Telepresence would truly bring city officials to the people by enabling them to appear in person, taking questions from residents they see live over interactive video.

Does your city or town use technology to better the lives of residents? How could telepresence fit into the mix?

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