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Calgary launches Talking City text service in advance of budget cycle

City of Calgary Chief Financial Officer Carla Male said some civic-minded folks might treat the new budget engagement as a bit of a scavenger hunt.

Talking City is a new text-to-information initiative to help Calgarians learn more about city services in advance of the One Calgary 2023 to 2026 budget.

In a nutshell, at more than 100 locations, Calgarians can interact with city fixtures – including bus stops, public art, street lights and more – by texting a word to a specific number.

“We wanted to help bring the pieces of City services together in an innovative way for Calgarians, sharing information and initiating conversations," said CFO Male.

“Calgarians with a keen interest in municipal government could treat it like a scavenger hunt, attempting to find all the keywords across the city while interacting with city services.”

When citizens text the number with the word it responds with an interesting fact about that specific service. Then users can provide their thoughts on that service.

Conversation with Calgarians

Male said when they started considering the upcoming budget cycle, they wanted to share information about the services and begin conversations.

“We wanted to attract those that we may not typically speak with and provide input into our next service plan and budget cycle,” she said.

The text options are available in English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Punjabi and Arabic. The locations are also available in an online map.

Rec centres, community associations and other civic partners were given the option to print off the text posters for their respective location.

In the first few days of the signs being up - without promotion - the city had 600 interactions.

Users, whether using the text service or not, are being asked to go online to complete a survey on city services.