Over the last few decades, digital technologies have dramatically transformed nearly every aspect of our lives—including local government services. We also know the digital transformation of our day-to-day lives is about more than just the immediate processing of administrative needs. It’s also about how citizens connect to one another and to their communities, as well as how they drive change. With the rise of digital communication and online communities, local governments must look for ways to adopt a diverse set of digital services to meet rising expectations.
City officials face increased pressure to prioritize citizen engagement, build trust and transparency, and deliver streamlined services to meet citizen needs. In election years, the scrutiny and expectations only grow. We sat down with Byron Carroll, ACTIVE Network's senior vice president of product management, to gather his expert insights on why local governments and departments need to connect with citizens and the role digital services play—both now and in the future.
Engaging Citizens in Election Years and Beyond
When asked about top priorities for local governments in an election year and the technology that helps facilitate these processes, Carroll said at a macro level, local governments are most concerned with communication, connection, fairness and safety. But there’s also citizen expectations to consider. As Carroll explains, "In a hyper-local and hyper-communicative environment, citizens expect their interactions with local government to be the same with businesses. They expect to have real-time dialogue with city workers, have real-time visibility into issues they've filed with the city, and to be alerted to happenings in the locale."
Looking beyond election day, Carroll adds, "Social media is everyone's go-to but can suffer the polarization that we've all seen in the recent election cycles. Today's iterations of social media don't do a great job of keeping the messages and the conversations limited to the geographic area. However, local municipal apps can be of assistance when it comes to connecting citizens to local governments."
Carroll noted that there are many instances where mobile apps managed by local municipalities are fragmented across services and departments, making communication channels siloed and not as useful. He recommends instead for local municipalities to consider implementing a single, cohesive mobile app that brings departments' services under one digital umbrella.
Digital Services and Connecting to Citizens
Today, citizens expect local governments to offer a seamless user experience on par with consumer brands. Drawing from the private sector, government agencies can tackle many of their macro concerns, including communication, connection, fairness and safety. As Carroll explains, "Customer centricity is big. Most of the bedrock problems we're hearing about all fall under the definition of a customer-centric solution. Additionally, like the for-profit space, many IT leaders are looking to consolidate vendors, not just from a cost-cutting move, but with the expectation that the experience for the municipal employees, as well as citizens, is cleaner and intentionally thought-out end to end."
Implementing digitally advanced technologies doesn't simply satisfy citizen demands. These tools can also increase citizen engagement. When adopting new tools and digital services, administrative leaders, CIOs and IT directors need to consider user-friendly solutions that, as Carroll notes, "meet citizens where they are." Adding, "Size and location of the municipality typically, but not always, dictates the level of investment and completeness of vision realizing a customer-centric view. However, if I had one thing to suggest to any size town or city, conduct an audit of citizen experiences across the various functional areas. That report, I expect, would be eye-opening to those responsible for the technology infrastructure and general city management on how they support and engage their citizens."
Looking Ahead: Adopting Digital Services, Even Those on the Horizon
Following the onset of the pandemic, many local governments quickly prioritized adopting private-sector technology that would have previously seemed impossible. Yet, administrative leaders, CIOs and IT directors still face unique challenges when it comes to the digital transformation of government services. However, some municipalities actively look at what lies ahead and pay attention to consumer trends to guide their decisions. As Carrol points out, the most innovative cities "play around with future tech. They're likely playing around with AR, VR and the metaverse and thinking about how these technologies will be implemented by local government. They are streamlining the workflows and processes of their employees. They are streamlining how citizens can interact with their local government, whether paying for a parking citation or expressing a view to an elected official."
As your software provider, ACTIVE will help you adopt the robust and lasting digital services you need to meet citizen expectations.
"ACTIVE powers more than 60% of the largest municipalities in North America with tools across parks and recreation management, bill payments, citizen experience and business process automation," Carroll said, adding, "We are also working to leverage its extensive consumer experience in new and unique ways to transform how municipalities do business for the betterment of all."
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