Tasmania’s Central Coast Council takes care of around 25,000 residents over roughly 930km2 of pristine beaches, seaside villages and lush farmland. The Council provides people with vital services across the region, spanning everything from maintaining the roads to collecting waste and hosting events.

It’s vital that the Central Coast Council stays in close contact with its community and that lines of communication run freely in both directions. In 2022, the Council learned about Antenno, an app designed specifically for local government – community members download it to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in their neighbourhood and they can report any issues.

“We liked the idea of providing our customers with an easier way to tell us about things that needed to happen throughout the municipal area,” says Samantha Searle, Director of Corporate Services at the Council. “We knew we needed another way to provide better communication on changes to service levels, for example.”

Datacom’s Director of Local Government Peter Nelson says the focus in developing Antenno was specifically to enable meaningful two-way engagement with an easy mobile app experience that allows councils, like Central Coast Council, to receive information from various sources without needing to install multiple apps or monitor multiple social media feeds.

Photograph of Peter Nelson sitting on a long grey sofa next to a large window
The focus in developing Antenno was to enable meaningful two-way engagement between councils and communities, says Peter Nelson.

A six-week implementation and immediate success

The Council receives a high volume of service requests via phone calls and emails, but prior to rolling out Antenno it wasn’t easy to provide targeted information about day-to-day services. For example, on ANZAC Day 2023, the area’s waste contractor needed to pick up the bins early to avoid disturbing dawn services – but not everybody knew this was happening.

“It caused a lot of frustration for customers, and it wasn’t fair on our staff who had to receive a large number of phone calls from upset people,” says Samantha. “We want to keep customers happy and informed, so we knew that Antenno would be a useful tool. It isn’t the only solution to manage this type of incident, but it does help reach people and take some of the heat out of the situation.”

The Council team gave Datacom the green light, asking if Antenno could be implemented before the upcoming rates bill so a flyer could be included for residents. The teams at Datacom and the Council rose to the occasion and managed to take the project from zero to fully operational in six weeks.

The response was immediate, with more than 800 downloads so far and impressive engagement. Antenno allows the Council to push notices out to residents in areas affected by changes to service times and – crucially – the two-way system also lets those in the community report issues. 

“Whilst we have a small percentage of our community signed up, they have a very high engagement rate,” says Samantha. “We are now getting one third of our service requests through Antenno. Even councillors themselves will report an issue via Antenno rather than the traditional channels.”

“Giving people control over how and when they report issues or access information is one of the critical benefits of Antenno,” says Nelson. “People have busy lives and the communication channels that local government uses need to give them access to information in a way that works for them. Antenno delivers timely and relevant alerts, information, and posts to communities, and gives them the autonomy to report issues, make suggestions and engage with the council at their convenience, encouraging a more productive experience.”

Positive feedback and helpful reporting tools

Both internal and external feedback has been positive. Locals appreciate that the Council is finding new ways to communicate, and those within the Council are increasingly embracing the user-friendly app.

Screenshot of the Antenna app.
Antenno has a variety of features, including helpful reporting tools, which have been met by positive feedback from citizens and councillors alike.

Another helpful feature is that Antenno’s reporting capability breaks service requests into various categories and keeps track of them.

“People are reporting issues in Antenno instead of calling, but we’re also seeing people report things that would previously have gone unreported. It seems that people are more inclined to report via Antenno because it’s so easy,” says Samantha. “People prefer to do things on their phone these days, and nobody really wants to have to talk to the Council.”

While the increase in requests and reported issues has created extra work for some Central Coast teams, overall the Council sees it as a positive because they are being responsive to the needs of their community, keeping on top of maintenance issues and raising the level of service and customer satisfaction for residents and visitors.

“Just the start of things to come”

Searle says there’s still work to do in promoting Antenno and growing the number of features being utilised, but so far it’s been a successful launch. Datacom supported the Council to achieve the tight implementation timeframe and provided marketing materials and ideas on reaching new users.

“Working with Datacom was a positive experience overall. Our project manager was very good, the scheduling was excellent, and Datacom was clear about what we had to do. We’re really happy with Antenno so far and we can see how much potential it has.” 

The icing on the cake was a win at the 2023 Central Coast Business Awards, where the Council took out the Innovation category for the project.

“It was nice to be recognised at the awards, because our Council hasn’t been known in the past for our innovation in the digital space,” says Samantha. “We know we have a lot to do in terms of how we interact with our community and make our customer experience more positive – this project is just the start of things to come.” 

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