This past Friday the City of Madison hosted twelve individuals from North Africa and the Middle East. This visit was arranged by the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and included representation from Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. This professional exchange program is intended for up and coming leaders, journalists, government officials and other professionals to engage with and establish relationships with their American counterparts. This particular group was interested in learning about the City of Madison's use of web technologies for citizen outreach and how this promotes government transparency. Interestingly, they specifically requested a visit to Madison as several of them follow the City through social media.
After a presentation by Sarah Edgerton and Paul Kronberger from our IT Department, I was pleased to talk with our visitors and discuss ideas. They liked our use of citizen input tools such as IdeaScale, as well as the project input tools we use to gather feedback on projects to be implemented, such as Bike Madison and the Public Market. We also shared some common concerns such as the Digital Divide where, regardless of the country, segments of the population do not have adequate access to the internet.
We ended our time late in the afternoon, and the group planned to enjoy their evening in Madison by sampling one of our excellent restaurants in the downtown area. As we closed our time together, I urged them to also consider a walk down State Street, as no visit to our city is complete without that.