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St. Louis Uses Interactive Kiosks as a Critical COVID-19 Communications Platform

St. Louis, MO, USA
IKE Smart City

Cost

Zero upfront cost to local government

Project Status

Operational since 2021

At a Glance

The City of St. Louis used interactive kiosks to broadcast critical information in the public right-of-way during the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, it has included customized and multilingual content to help mitigate the physical and mental risks to public health.

Problem Addressed

In times of crisis, communication between cities and diverse populations in urban downtown areas is critical. The ever-changing nature of emergency situations requires the immediate deployment of widespread, relevant, and real-time information to the public.

When the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the nation, fear and confusion ensued. Citizens were overloaded with conflicting data, countless sources of information, and national media coverage. They were unsure of what to believe and who to trust as they navigated the effects of this novel virus on public health and safety. Citizens looked to their cities and local governments to guide them and support them in the midst of increasingly challenging circumstances.

Cities like St. Louis had a responsibility to act quickly to serve their constituents. They faced unique and complex challenges, including funding communications efforts, navigating the logistics of media partnerships, and finding resources to create content.

Securing opportunities through mainstream media such as broadcast and print takes time to implement, and messaging is largely under the control of reporters. While digital channels are a good source of information, access to the internet is often limited to those with personal devices and connectivity, which can exclude underserved communities. Bridging the digital divide was needed to help keep all residents informed.

Municipal partners in St. Louis used/is using IKE’s advanced technology and high visibility in the public right-of-way as part of their communications strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Because of its partnership with IKE Smart City, the City of St. Louis has had access to an essential, free crisis communications channel. Specifically:

1. Free platform required no investment

2. Multiple messages able to be rotated in IKE’s ad loop concurrently including local and federal information resources, requests for blood donations, mental health services, and other PSAs

3. IKE’s Poster application on the home screen dashboard offered the ability to communicate additional information, when needed

4. The Social Services and Civic Resources applications gave citizens places to go for help

5. City-owned channel gave local government full control over messaging and the ability to customize content

6. IKE’s location-aware listings were most relevant to the areas surrounding each kiosk

7. No City resources were needed (The IKE team provided all content creation, translations, and deployment at no cost)

8. Content was frequently and quickly updated through IKE’s real-time content management system

9. High visibility kiosk locations drove awareness and reach

10. IKE’s “always-on” functionality ensured a 24/7 presence

11. Free Wi-Fi provided connectivity to those who needed it

St. Louis citizens have benefitted greatly as a result. Specifically:

1. Increased understanding of how to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus including touchless transfer of information to mobile devices

2. Access to valuable service and resource listings such as food and shelter support, healthcare, and financial aid

3. Increased connectivity through free Wi-Fi

4. Ability to consume information in primary language through multilingual capabilities

5. Visible medium for homeless citizens without access to other forms of media

Outcomes

  1. St. Louis efficiently strengthened their crisis communication efforts without any budgetary implications, leaving them with money to allocate to other COVID-19 initiatives
  2. City resources were not distracted from the rest of their pandemic response plan because the IKE Smart City team managed this effort
  3. Citizens were given confidence that the City was prepared and invested in the well-being of its residents
  4. The City maximized the chances that residents would play an active role in protecting themselves, their families, and their communities from the virus

Lessons Learned

  1. When information changes by the hour, as it did with COVID-19, it’s important to be nimble. Evolve content quickly to ensure communications are relevant and up-to-date.
  2. Anecdotal feedback from the public validated the need for cities to connect with them during times of fear, confusion, and isolation. The bigger the crisis, the stronger the need.

Something Unique

The City of St. Louis has deployed IKE at no cost. The kiosks are supported by advertising revenue.

Who Should Consider?

Large urban cities with diverse populations in need of an interactive communication platform to connect with residents and further placemaking goals.