With just a single glimpse of those fated orange cones, a sense of dread comes over you. The slowing traffic can only mean one thing: road construction. Between the unpredictable delays and detours, even simple repairs can become a commuter’s worst nightmare. Now imagine if twelve miles of two busy interstates were completely shut down for an entire year. Besides having the potential to be a massive headache, such a project would not be cheap either. So, how did the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) overcome these obstacles? Through a combination of social media and mobile technology, MODOT was able to fashion a model by which large, disruptive projects were completed smoothly while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

A new avenue for communication

First off, MODOT was dedicated to keeping the public informed. It harnessed social media and the ability to post MODOT’s public meetings online so as to keep an open dialogue. Any updates and closures were shared and widely available via customized apps and social media to ensure that not only did citizens know when and what to avoid, but to also understand what going on behind the orange cones. MODOT noted that the public’s participation had increased significantly during this project, highlighting MODOT’s success in communication and transparency.

Saving through technology

In an age when governments are expected to do more with less, the MODOT case demonstrates more than just improved transparency. Importantly, MODOT was able to save upwards of 500 million dollars. And, no, this was no accounting trick. Instead, much of this can be attributed to utilizing mobile technology to streamline the sharing of information among the project’s workers. Also, according to Charles Hiebert, MODOT’s Central Office Customer Relations Manager, the use of Twitter and Facebook allowed MODOT to save in communication expenses as well. The gains to efficiency that technology provided thus made this seemingly impossible 500 million dollar savings surprisingly doable.

And while the benefits of technology cannot eliminate the need for road construction altogether, through the use of mobile apps and social media, governments are making significant headway in reducing commuter and budgetary headaches.