Permitting & Licensing Efficiency in Government: The Community Portal

October 16, 2020

An Essential Feature of Permitting & Licensing Efficiency in Government: The Community Portal

A Community Portal is an essential part of any digital government toolkit, providing a highly effective interface between citizens, businesses, and agency staff. It serves as a powerful tool in connecting communities to citizen services, and can help facilitate high permitting and licensing volumes in times of heightened demand. And given the rapid shift to digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic, an online Community Portal’s function is more critical than ever in ensuring service continuity and economic recovery. 

So, how can a Community Portal transform citizen services?

Increasing Demands for Government Digitization & Self-Service 

Citizens expect a government aligned with modern technology. As such, the demand for online access to everyday government services has never been greater. In a recent survey, Accenture found that 85 percent of those polled expected the same, if not higher, quality of digital service from government as they do from commercial organizations. 

As a response to this demand for improved citizen services, and the necessity of online service availability amid COVID-19, agencies are leveraging cloud-based technology to consolidate outdated and disparate services into a single self-serve, online portal.

So, Why Adopt a Community Portal? 

A cloud-based government software solution provides a shared infrastructure so you can consolidate department workflows and services into a single portal interface -- a Community Portal -- that allows your agency to easily share information across departments, and better connect with citizens and businesses. 

A web-based self-service portal, or Community Portal, offers a central location for citizens and businesses to manage their permitting and licensing needs online; and can provide you with an effective system to best handle your department’s complex needs. And with predominantly user-centred designs, a Community Portal is configured in a way that’s easy and efficient for everyone to use, and is not so different from the simple online services people use everyday -- think online shopping or banking. It is also highly-configurable, ensuring that the specific needs of your community are met. 

And especially as governments and communities look to recover from the economic devastation brought on by the global pandemic, a Community Portal is more crucial than ever to tackle permitting and licensing backlogs, and can help accelerate community development and economic growth. Without an online portal, citizens and businesses lack a digital way to process their permits and licenses, and staff lack the resources necessary to process applications. This means significant backlogs, lost revenue, and delayed development in your community as in-person service centres remain shut. 

Ultimately, adopting a Community Portal can help you cut down permitting and licensing backlogs, consolidate information, and improve transparency for all system users. Plus, it can consolidate a user's identity, too, making it easy for citizens to access multiple government services with just one login.  

Consolidated Identity Management for a Seamless User Experience

With widespread cloud adoption across departments, a user’s identity can be consolidated across the system -- whether they’re applying for a nursing license or submitting a noise complaint -- meaning, with just one login, they get access to multiple services. And as noted by the Center for Digital Government Content Studio and Okta, the benefit of identity management within a Community Portal cannot be overstated: 

“[A Community Portal] eases implementation by ensuring the user is consistently recognized across the system…. [helping] build an integrated picture of the end user, [and] driving a more seamless experience over time. A user who logs out this morning can log in this afternoon and pick up right where he or she left off. Push notifications can steer users to relevant content and services based on past preferences and behaviours. Applied for a restaurant permit? Here’s a link to liquor licensing. That’s the power of a cloud-based service portal, and it’s fueled by identity management.” 
- Center for Digital Government Content Studio, with information and input from Okta.

If a user is frequently asked to re-authenticate their identity, or to use a different login, one of the basic benefits of a cloud-based service portal -- a seamless and transparent user experience -- is lost. That’s why successfully leveraging the cloud and all of its innate capabilities takes thoughtful planning and execution. 

To ensure cloud success, the Center for Digital Government and Okta stress the importance in considering the ever- expanding base of users, devices and applications; along with the steadily rising volume of data and diversity of services. IT teams and cloud service providers must work closely together to ensure the full benefits of a Community Portal are reached. 

The Benefits of a Community Portal

A Community Portal provides one central channel to access and deliver online public services, and facilitates the relationship between citizens, business and public administration. 

As an essential part of any e-government, a portal can deliver many benefits to your agency. In their research on e-government tools for Municipalities in Eastern Ontario, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network and Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EORN & EOWC) list the following benefits of a self-serve portal for government: 

  • Improved Quality of Service: the delivery of services through self-service channels is more efficient, resulting in better and faster services. 
  • Service Accessibility: self-service channels provide a high level of accessibility, allowing for service anytime, anywhere.
  • Accountability: digital interactions leave a trail of actions; and unlike paper trails, are unlikely to be lost, ensuring that both residents and government have records of past interactions. 
  • Better Data Management: with the data from self-service portals, and increased community engagement (from eliminating the need to show up in-person), governments are better able to react to citizen trends, and make more informed data-backed decisions. 
  • Lower Cost: post-implementation, self-service systems generally result in a lower cost of service delivery, sustained for years to come. 

Ultimately, as explained by Richard Pope in Playbook: Government as a Platform, a self-service platform is one that users can easily find, understand what it does, and start using without intervention. It solves problems once, meeting the common needs of users, rather than tackling the same problem multiple times -- it encourages cross-departmental communication, collaboration, and sharing of information. 

Given the significant benefits of digital government, it’s no surprise that digital transformation is among the top priorities for governments across the globe, and as explained in a previous blog post, has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Different Kind of Government

Largely, governments have been slow to adopt modern technology, often due to budgetary constraints and the sheer magnitude of a system migration, among other things. As Richard Pope explains, in a typical government office, you may find: “...a records department managing paper files...; administrative staff processing and validating information, either in person over-the-counter or in back-offices, executing the rules set out in different government policies; [and] finally, [you’ll] find forms. Lots and lots of forms.” 

Utilizing a cloud platform offers a modern take to government services, and ample opportunity for growth and innovation. A self-serve portal is but one of the many services possible with a platform approach, and has proven successful for many. 

In the United States, for example, the US Veterans Administration has begun to build its services around APIs, allowing veteran charities and other organizations to build public-facing services of their own; while the US Forest Service, in a move to keep up with a permitting demands, built on top of existing platforms to create Open Forest, a self-serve permitting solution that allows people to apply and pay for a Christmas tree permit through a self-serve portal. The service allows users to apply to legally harvest a Christmas tree from a national forest online, wherever they may be. These self-serve capabilities not only drastically reduced the administrative toll on Forest Service office staff, but sped up the permitting process -- the service sold close to 5,000 permits in its first season. 

Evidently, government as a platform, specifically as a cloud-based platform, offers many benefits, especially for citizens seeking digital services comparable to commercial organizations. A self-serve service portal, or Community Portal, is but one essential tool for a truly digital government.

Interested in a self-serve portal to serve your community’s needs? 

Clariti’s Community Portal allows you to: 

  • Simplify the online application and management process for permitting and licensing applicants (Citizens or Business).
  • Speed up the application process with an efficient, step-by-step process to ensure that all applicable information is captured. 
  • Easily configure application forms to support or accommodate any unique administrative processes -- eliminating the need for time-consuming customization or development resources.
  • Simplify and improve administrative processes with quicker processing and status tracking.
  • Process eCommerce transactions using built-in PayPal (and other*) payment gateways, making it possible for quick, convenient and secure access to your payments and requests.  * simple configuration required for other payment gateways. 

To see how other government organizations are leveraging a community portal to manage permitting and licensing applications online, get in touch. We'd be happy to share some examples and talk about how you could leverage this solution at your organization.

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