Government Transparency 101


The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is a survey that calculates how trustworthy the public perceives their governments to be. In 2018, the United States dropped from 75/100 to 71/100. While the U.S. is still ranked #22 across the globe, governments still want to see this number improve rather than decline over the years.

This means that Americans are having trouble trusting their government more than ever before. In a world where bribery, scams, scandals, and secretive movements in governments occur, it makes sense why Americans are so distrustful.

Change can still happen, and governments can make waves of building trust with their constituents. With more government transparency, even on the side of smaller local municipalities, that damaged trust can absolutely be mended.

How can government achieve transparency? 

Working to understand why your municipality should build processes with transparency in mind is a good starting place. If public sector organizations work with residents, employees, and businesses to build a better understanding of what transparency means to them,  they can build a more trustworthy government action plan that maintains over time.  It’s time to reassess what government transparency really means in 2019. Building an eco-system with disconnected parts will eventually make the entire system fall apart. Governments and residents need to be connected in order to build trust in each other.

Let’s take a look at exactly what government transparency is, and what local governments can do to be more transparent with residents.

What is government transparency? 
Government transparency is essentially a government’s known obligation to be as open, accountable, and honest with its residents as possible. This honesty involves being open about how the government is conducting business and using resident’s tax dollars to improve
the area that it governs.

Why is it important?
Government transparency is important because it is ultimately the government’s job to serve its constituents as efficiently as possible. Sometimes, that involves a government allowing itself to be scrutinized. If a government is clear about the processes it uses to make
decisions, as well as what those decisions are, then governments and residents can work together to better serve the community that the government is working to protect.

What can local government do to be more transparent? 
Before we get into how governments can make their information more readily available, let’s look at what local governments can do to effectively make their agencies more transparent:

  • Through conducting extensive training on all aspects of the local government, as well as on the government transparency initiatives that are happening in state and federal governments.
  • By counseling agencies within the local government on questions arising from transparent government initiatives. Through developing guidance for reports, regularly and publicly reviewing reports, and creating a summary of reports that are extremely easy for citizens to access for free.
  • Through issuing guidance for improvement based on reviews of reports and doing so publicly and with resident involvement.
  • By developing and promoting best practices within the local government.
  • By executing meetings and broadcasts of transparency initiatives.
  • Through educating the public about how government transparency works and making it easy for the layman to understand.
  • By participating in local, state, federal, and international transparency events.

How can local governments facilitate transparency and information access for residents? 
There are a few ways that local governments can improve transparency, and the main way to do so is  simply be more up-front about new changes in the community and make it easier for residents to access this information. Governments must facilitate proactive communication, openly request resident feedback on changes, and provide  easy access to documents and information with self-service digital channels. Following this methods doesn’t have to be difficult, no matter how archaic a municipality’s digital archives may be.

A great solution to this is a government CRM (constituent relationship management), this solution works as a centralized location for all resident interactions, with quick access to information, and visibility into government/resident interactions.

Ultimately, governments must build a system of tools that send data that is both bidirectional and communicates with one another. We talk a lot about interoperability between systems, because this it’s a great way to connect all the data a government collects. If an organizations systems can’t integrate with each other, there’s a possibility of leaving valuable data in a silo that doesn’t help you build trust or transparency. Using multiple systems across different departments makes for a failed system. A lot of times, it can even be more costly in addition to being ineffective at connecting residents with their local governments.

Even governments that go out of their way to be as transparent as possible aren’t quite hitting the mark when it comes to facilitating that transparency. If the government systems do not communicate properly or send information back and forth, that information can be lost and
difficult to access on the user’s end.

When it comes down to it, data can get lost and time will be wasted on trying to open ten different programs to perform a single task or find information about a recent government change.

You can build your citizen engagement with a government CRM and a brandable mobile app. The app add-on houses many municipality functions that feed into a robust back-end CRM and integrates out-of-the-box with a variety of asset management systems (AMS). Through this ecosystem, all departments responsible for the asset and customer service sides are informed, then the resident will receive a notification about status changes or updates from their government.

Transparency really doesn’t have to be such a complicated venture, with the right government solutions, public trust can be improved.

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