The way governments and councils communicate with their residents is changing rapidly – thanks, in large part, to the enormous developments in technology that have taken place over the last two decades. With citizen engagement trends evolving so fast, we’ve taken a look at some of the most interesting trends coming through right now, to offer inspiration for those trying to remain ahead of the curve.
The majority of individuals now have some form of smartphone. In Canada, for example, smartphone penetration has hit 60%, and experts believe that the figure could be as high as 80% in the US. With such sophisticated technology at the fingertips of your residents, it’s easy to turn your residents into assets for your community, by engaging them in the reporting process.
Using smartphones and the internet, residents can now report crimes, flag up potholes on their roads or otherwise notify the authorities about something which needs to be addressed. They can use their built-in cameras to record accompanying video or take still images of the scene, as well as leveraging GPS technology to pinpoint the exact location of the problem. This exciting trend gives the public more power in their community, and helps speed up the process of service requests.
Citizens as customers
Think of the immense customer experience that individuals receive today, from big brands like GrubHub, Uber, Amazon, Apple and Costco. These businesses have a streamlined user experience that can make government processes seem slow and sluggish in comparison. If only changing your address was as easy as ordering an Uber directly to your door!
With such pressure from the private sector, councils and governments are adopting a new approach: treating their citizens like customers. In a sense, residents can be seen as customers anyway, having paid their taxes, which are put towards certain services. This means striving to satisfy them and providing the type of customer experience that they might aim for if they were working for a firm like Apple or Amazon.
Leveraging open data
Put simply, if you’re not giving your citizens access to open data, you’re at risk of falling seriously behind competitors. Open data is described as ‘data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone’, and it has two key benefits for citizen engagement. The first is that it promotes transparency. Transparency helps citizens understand their government, and it also reduces the number of Freedom of Information requests the government has to deal with.
The second benefit of leveraging open data is that it gives technologically-minded individuals and entrepreneurs the ability to turn the data into something useful. Whether it’s creating an app with a map of the nearest public broadband points, or developing a system which delivers bus and train arrival times directly to your smartphone, those with an entrepreneurial mindset can take the masses of raw data and turn it into something useful for the local community.