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Improving Citizen Experience with Digital Government Services

July 24, 2020

One thing that COVID-19 has shown to North America and the rest of the world is the acceleration of digital transformation. Many citizens have been forced to rethink their day-to-day lives with limitations of travel restrictions and social distancing. The use of digital tools and services has been crucial for governments worldwide, providing citizens needed services online and keeping them up-to-date with current news on the pandemic. 

In times of crisis: the importance of digital government services

Investments that governments have made to consistently develop technological systems during "normal" times have paid off in the pandemic, enabling them to better respond to the COVID-19 emergency. In providing real-time information on the current situation of the pandemic, citizens with access to digital government services are better equipped to handle the emergency. 

However, unlike the private sector that can change and adapt its operations to suit their needs quickly, governments face a multitude of challenges before the adoption of digital government services can even be thought of. Budgetary constraints and inflexible legacy systems in place, create a barrier for state and local governments to quickly and efficiently adopt digital government services. 

An ideology to consider, from the United Nations, highlights the importance of partnerships between governments and private sector firms:

"...building partnerships with private technology companies, social entrepreneurs or other national and international organizations, can represent an effective way for governments to make use of existing technologies to meet the needs of people and soften the impact of the crisis on their lives." -  Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. 

In a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company on citizen experience in 2014, citizens cited service delivery in government services as "complex, slow and inefficient". Fast forward to the 2019 survey, most internal processes are still paper-based and require manual steps for workflow processes. But it's not all doom and gloom; studies have also seen an increase in citizen satisfaction with government services from those who have taken part in the digital transformation of their services, or what's now known as digital government.

Open, transparent communication between residents & government

Providing real-time access to information for citizens increases trust and transparency between citizens and governments. Citizens want to know how long an application process takes, and crave transparency throughout the permitting and licensing processes within citizen service portals. Above all, they seek a high standard of quality that signifies unity and economic stability. Why is that? 

"Transparency is the new political religion shared by a majority of civic activists and an increasing number of governments. The transparency movement embodies the hope that a combination of new technologies, publicly accessible data, and fresh activism can more effectively assist people to hold their representatives to account, which will lead to a rebuilding of trust in democratic institutions." - Ivan Krastev

So, how can we build confidence in our digital government systems? Digital solutions offered on the market today don't just cater to the private sectors. The public sector is catching up and with technology providers that have shaped the industry to provide efficient services. However, one can't open communication channels between residents and municipalities without improved operational efficiencies. 

Improved efficiencies with e-government services 

Companies with digital government solutions are now competing to provide a future-proof solution transforming out-dated in house legacy systems through digital government software. To provide real-time access to information, governments require digitalization of workflow processes through automation, integration with other platforms, and a user-friendly interface. Other benefits of digital government solutions include services such as a centralized data structure and speeding up complex or slow workflow systems.

Should you adopt a digital permitting system? Digital government services almost always include digitized permitting, licensing and inspections, offering tools for both ends of users. With a goal in mind of improving citizen safety and adhering to compliance regulations, the traditional paper-permitting system lacks scalability and long-term sustainability. Here are some benefits a web-based permitting software can deliver:

  • Improved work efficiency through automated and simplified workflows
  • Mitigated the risk of errors for accurate results
  • Prioritized maintenance tickets according to urgency
  • Centralized and always-accessible data 
  • Adapts to new regulation compliances on processes, quality control and deadlines

Does your municipality need inspection software? Headlining on negative press releases is just one of the many issues governments face today. Negative public perceptions and a lack of confidence in government can hurt a government's future campaigns, but also lessens trust between the citizens and leadership. So, what are the benefits a government agency can gain through an integration of inspection software? 

  • Standardized inspection checklist across all boards
  • Improved transparency and accountability within teams and departments
  • Instant access to information, regardless of location
  • Ability to "close the loop" on action items
  • Efficient allocation of resources reduces overall costs and waste

How do digital customer portals and payment carts benefit citizens? The private sector was one of the first sectors to adopt customer portals and digital payment carts. From buying groceries online to booking flights for your holidays, these simple yet effective tools have increased customer satisfaction and surpassed expectations. So if the private sector can reap its benefits, the public sector can, too. With e-government solutions and digital resident services, both you and your residents will benefit from the increased transparency and communication across communities. Other examples of how e-government and digital citizen services benefit citizens:

  • Provides citizen with effective self-service capabilities from the comforts of their homes
  • Ease of access to relevant information and user information
  • Transparency into timelines and processes for permitting, licensing and inspections
  • Give citizens the ability to create tickets, feedback forms, and general inquiries
  • Help increase citizen participation and satisfaction through digital processes
  • Access to online payments without having to visit their local or state government building

Ever-increasing importance of e-government service digitization

Given the global state and international quarantines, the demand for digital government services and transparent communication channels is more prevalent than ever before. Citizens need access to information from the comforts of their homes, without going in public and risking the health and safety of their communities. Civil servants require access to information away from their offices. A need for transformation on government services can and will improve citizen experiences and public satisfaction ratings through citizen engagement.

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