The barriers between governments and citizens are eroding thanks to a combination of technology and a thirst for information. At least, they should be – but that’s unfortunately not always the case.
It’s not that federal, state, and local governments don’t want to share information with citizens. They understand that providing citizen-centric services is an important component for growth. But many agencies are struggling with restricted budgets, legacy technologies, and physical infrastructures – all of which are hampering their efforts.
That doesn’t coincide with connected citizenship. Today, citizens want to open a Web browser and access information within moments. They anticipate receiving rapid responses and information via social media feeds. The popularity of mobile devices encourages these expectations as anyone can access data immediately from anywhere.
Citizens expect more from government – more information, access, and input. They’re used to interacting with businesses in the private sector – where interaction is the rule, not the exception – and are translating this to government. They want to interact with government, but traditional forms of communication – which many governments still depend on as part of legacy IT systems – make this difficult.
Governments certainly understand that this needs to change, and have launched programs such as the Open Government Initiative, which promotes transparency and public participation. Still, the question remains: How can the public sector achieve this – simply, economically, and effectively?
Reimagining Citizen Service and Engagement
In 1991, Geoffrey Moore released his famous book Crossing the Chasm, discussing the differences between early technology adopters and those who prefer to wait. While it was a marketing text, we’re experiencing something similar in the division between the technology that consumers have embraced and the tools in which government has invested.
Citizens are pushing the technology envelope as governments race to catch up.
While people embrace mobile devices, government agencies continue discussions on how to control and leverage them. As consumers flock to social media, governments struggle to proactively and continuously get their messages out over these platforms.
And as the public’s dependency on cloud technologies increases, governments struggle with moving from legacy technology to Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.
Citizens are early adopters. They’re clamoring for information through technology that they use every day. They’re used to having their voices heard and getting information immediately. As such, they’re pushing public sector agencies to reimagine citizen service and engagement.
Governments don’t want to be laggards. And they don’t have to be. They can build better ways to engage with citizens without making major investments in training, capital, and time. In the process, they can streamline their operations. They can build a better citizen connectivity platform.
Technology leaders aren’t blind to this need for innovation either. As a result, they have become more proactive in aiding government with their technology development.
For instance, Microsoft recently introduced CityNext – an initiative designed to help governments create more modern, safer, healthier, and better educated communities. With the help of this launch and others, governments have better access to technology tailored to their needs.
Having worked with major public sector organizations worldwide who have invested in Microsoft technologies, there are various initiatives to adopt or streamline their current investments to engage and motivate constituents. Here are some examples:
- Provide mobile-enabled citizen and government engagement to report, address, and track citizens’ needs. Organizations can leverage SharePoint and Dynamics CRM for citizen case management such as e311 Citizen Services solutions.
- Empower governments to provide real-time visibility and accountability for public project initiatives that have a high impact on citizens. Technologies like SharePoint, Project Server, and Yammer can provide effective and relevant Project Transparency solutions.
- Provide a response to social media sentiment analysis and allow for engagement in virtual town hall meetings through mobile, real-time, and on-demand capabilities by taking advantage of Microsoft Social Listening, Office 365, Dynamics CRM, and Azure media streaming to provide a Town Hall solution.
- Enable field inspections with real-time assignments, status, history, checklist, and knowledge base all delivered on mobile devices. Leverage Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Biztalk and Azure to deploy a mobile workforce.
The Foundation is Here, the Time is Now
Traditionally, governments have struggled with how best to connect with citizens. While that problem still remains today, the technology environment has changed drastically. We’ve never had such a treasure trove of tools, from mobile devices to the cloud to social media, all designed to work together in the name of communication and information retrieval. Integrating them is perceived as a monumental challenge – but does it need to be?
Governments can use their current systems and technology investments to connect with citizens in new ways by using the technology that’s at everyone’s fingertips. Candidly, they have to. The world has changed, and we’ve moved beyond the point where citizens accept not having insight into what governments are doing. They want open, immediate access to information. They want to be able to interact. They want to have input into the ways governments are shaping their world.
Government agencies around the world are ready to cross the chasm Geoffrey Moore wrote about – even if they don’t realize it.
Dux Raymond Sy- Dux Raymond Sy, PMP, MVP (@meetdux) is Chief Technology Officer of AvePoint Public Sector, where he is responsible for leading the development and delivery of strategic customer solutions that drives positive business transformation and enables organizations to achieve their overall mission. With over 15 years of business & technology management experience, he has successfully facilitated the implementation of various business transformation solutions for commercial, educational and public sector organizations.