Every community needs a mission and a vision. That means creating an assessment of the current state and a goal for the future state. Regardless of the pathway chosen to get there, the ultimate goal of every municipality should be a future in which government operations and priorities are aligned with citizen needs and wants. Every community needs a plan to reach its ideal future state, and while each plan may vary in the minutia, one underlining reality exists: the successful future of all local governments is dependent upon their ability to manage information—and no, we don’t mean paper records.
The Future of Local Government is in the Cloud, Not the Filing Cabinet
The ability of local government to function at a high level is becoming increasingly dependent upon its ability to manage a wide variety of data. From citizen records to digital form submissions, to credit card transactions to data and analytics, the success of local government lies at the intersection of systems and data. Said differently, the future success of local governments in meeting citizen needs lies in the establishment of a successful digital information management model.
The Need for Evidence-Based Analysis in Public Service Decision-Making
Local governments have always relied on input from the public sector to inform their policies and priorities. However, never before have local governments had access to the level of evidence-based data that exists today thanks to technology innovation, and in particular, the Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to the interconnectivity of Internet-enabled devices, local governments can now tackle their biggest challenges—air quality, traffic congestion, pollution, and other issues—all by using real-time data captured by sensors. These innovations are only a few of the ways that use of the IoT and the data access it offers, can enable local governments to help their citizens lead better lives.
When local governments have access to data and analytics tools that allow them to identify patterns in digital user behavior, they can better anticipate citizens’ needs and engage them on a more personal, and meaningful level. For example, when local governments can see what transparency documents their citizens are downloading, what public meeting recordings they are viewing, and what topics they are searching for within their local government website, they can better understand the topics and public policy programs for which citizens are most concerned.
How to Shift to a Data-Centric Decision Making Model
Successful information management requires an internal operational model that prioritizes the collection and use of data across systems interactions. It means the convergence of data obtained from your parks and rec management software, your content management system, your employee management system, your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, outdoor sensors, and all other technology channels that allow you to capture and analyze moments of engagement.
Anyone who has ever attempted to analyze data knows that the greatest hurdle lies in organizing and aggregating data elements captured from different systems with varying output methods and report functions. To achieve information management success, local governments need to shift their information management model to rely upon a single, integrated platform with robust data analytics capabilities.
Local governments will also need to ensure the interconnectivity of their software stacks. Through the power of APIs and webhooks, data can be shared between systems in fully customizable ways to reduce duplicative data entry, streamline workflows, and trigger routine functions. Successful information management requires breaking down the siloes that trap data and insights to enable broad visibility into prospective moments of citizen engagement and public service, without duplicating efforts or risking data integrity.
Finally, a future-proofed information management model requires a secure infrastructure. With cyberattacks on the rise in every facet of the public sector, local governments cannot risk a data breech due to a reliance on outdated systems vulnerable to attack.
The future of citizen engagement may be reliant upon data points, analytics, and system infrastructure, but those impersonal elements are a means to a personal end: a future in which local governments are better informed, better organized, and better able to manage the citizens they have pledged to serve in impactful, meaningful ways.