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State of Government Technology in 2017: Progress

With a new administration coming in and a focus on local government infrastructure, what kinds of changes can we expect to see across the local and state government front, and how can you look to improve your city?

We already know that government leaders at the state and local level see a need for more technology and a continued effort to utilize data. According to Governing.com, at a recent global climate change summit in Mexico City, 48 mayors came together to continue their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing methods such as smart cars and electric vehicles with charging stations, making buildings more efficient, or using smart technology at home to reduce emissions. For instance, Tesla has created solar roof panels, which, when combined with utility and bill savings, will end up being cheaper than traditional shingles. They also look good!

It is nice to see forward progress for cities. Here are some things you should look for as we get into the New Year.

Citizen Focus

Phrases like “citizen engagement” and “government transparency” have been generously used for several years. Every city has been told they need to get technologies that will support citizens and transparency and apply them immediately. Now, municipal officials are at the point where they either have or have begun looking at these software’s and are asking, “Now what?”

Local governments have begun to realize, just because they have these technologies, does not mean their citizens will automatically use them. As our partner at GovDelivery, Steve Ressler, says in his blog on 5 Trends in Government Technology We’ll See in 2017, “citizens interact with government according to the 80/20 rule where 80% of interactions are just 20% of services.” Your citizens are more likely to interact with something like the DMV over just voting on a new public park, for instance.

In 2016, services like social media usage, web streaming, voting, and others really come into the spot light. The House of Representatives’ shut down on gun control is a great example where citizens were able to watch the events live on Granicus streaming services until the feed was closed. When you can easily put information in front of your citizens, you will be much more likely to engage with them, and that resonates with people. Citizens are far more likely to comment on your Facebook post or Tweet at you about new road construction than to go to your city’s website and submit a comment through a forum – especially if they go to your website and have to click through every header to find that forum.

Smart Technology

In 2016, smart technology like smart cars, roadways, and even smart parking meters began to emerge as “the future” of technology to help citizens. That will continue to evolve in 2017 as device developers and government see new applications for software and hardware. Amazon Echo, Amazon’s talking speaker and housing assistant, can do everything from play music, help you beat traffic to work, and even order paper towels and turn off lights for you.

In the future you read about as a child, local government is beginning to see new avenues here, such as Las Vegas, which is currently building an Echo app that will allow residents to pay bills, check the status of applications and permits, and get general information about the city. It will also contain some internal functions, such as human resources functions and budgeting. Coral Gables, a current Granicus client, will be collaborating with Uber to “create a promotional campaign for getting citizens to use the riding service instead of fighting to get through traffic and finding parking.”

We expect this trend to continue with infrastructure and other services. For instance, GIS (geographic information systems) based information to alert you to changing road conditions, plowing, or traffic, according to an article in GovTech’s January article, “Future Focused.” GIS services could also be combined with something like Snapchat, where a citizen could take a picture of a pothole on a city street and send it to the city with location based tagging services. It would be a much quicker way to deal with those issues than hoping that citizen goes on to the city website, searches for an email, and then sends the location and information there.

Job Roles

How government functions at the state and local government level has been in flux for a couple years now as open data and transparency move further on to the government radar and as the baby boomer generation retires. Government sees this as well. In an article by Stephen Goldsmith on GovTech“now is a pivotal moment when government agencies are moving their work into the cloud, and it is critical that this transition is capably managed by knowledgeable staff members.” We expect this trend to evolve even more as government’s partner with technology companies and other vendors. This includes training, attracting a young job force for government who may understand technology and change management easier, helping your staff transition into using these kind of services, working with vendors to manage them, and laying out cleaner job roles for staff.

Over the last two years, Granicus has conducted a State of the Clerk survey. This has shown some very interesting trends in the roles of government staff at the local level – specifically, the extremely diverse role of the clerk in government.

Our results from over 700 clerks surveyed have shown that clerks have a hand in many of the day-to-day services in their offices, ranging from budget prep to election management to building complicated agendas, sometimes spending several hours a day on each task. Of all clerks surveyed, budget cuts were the biggest concern over the next 5 years, followed by open records and open data, with tech adoption bringing up the rear. We hope to see this trend begin to slow down in 2017 as onboarding, training, and job roles become more defined. As a side effect, technology will be easier to adopt, open data and records will be easier to implement, you will have a happier staff, and eventually, happier citizens!

Additionally, if you would like to check out some of the resources we offer at Granicus to help with Government Transparency, check it out here.