A robust social media strategy can help agencies meet some of their transparency and engagement goals and produce a tangible return on investment.
As governments around the world navigate increasingly complex political and economic environments, it’s more important than ever that they leverage new technologies to engage citizens, attract new talent and deliver services more efficiently.
While there is clearly an appetite among citizens for more personal forms of engagement with government, the public sector is often considered behind the private sector when it comes to digital transformation. A recent Accenture study found that 85 percent of U.S. citizens expect the same or higher quality government digital services as they do from commercial organizations. Despite this, 40 percent of citizens remain unsatisfied with digital government. Digital transformation in government has become a political yardstick globally.
In Australia earlier this month, the Labor party challenged the Liberal-National coalition government over the lack of progress in digital transformation initiatives, and in February, the U.K.’s Government Transformation Strategy for 2017 to 2020 came under scrutiny due to concerns about the digital skills gap in the public sector.
In the U.S., the Trump administration is proposing a $1 trillion investment in digital infrastructure over the next 10 years that includes provisions that would elevate digital services to the same level of importance as physical infrastructure like roads and bridges.
Nick Sinai, Venture Partner at Insight Ventures Partners and former deputy CTO at the White House, is encouraged to see the Trump administration build on past efforts and continue to focus on IT modernization. “It vital that the federal government continues to adopt digital technologies that are making government simpler and more user focused,” he said. “With modern cloud-based software, government officials can create a more open and effective set of digital services that serve those that need it most.”
Obstacles to digital transformation
Despite Trump’s proposed investment in technology, government agencies still struggle with recruiting the right people for the job and procurement roadblocks when choosing software-as-a-service technologies. Globally, governments are facing debt burdens and shrinking budgets. The general government debt to gross domestic product for many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries exceeds 100 percent.
Even with these issues, there are some quick wins for government agencies -- all achievable by adopting a (relatively) new technology that most people already use every day: social media. By cleverly (and cost-effectively) rolling out a social media strategy, agencies can meet some of their digital transformation goals and produce a tangible return on investment that will deliver value in four ways:
1. Reduce wait times and increase customer satisfaction. Digital services will never completely replace in-person services in government. However, if agencies redirect funding from traditional call centers towards digital service delivery, they could cut customer wait times, improve response times, increase customer satisfaction levels and save both government and taxpayers significant money. New York City’s non-emergency NYC 311 service is a good example of this strategy. City residents are encouraged to file complaints digitally about potholes, damaged pavements, missed garbage collections, etc.
2. Increase citizen engagement and awareness of agency mission. For government agencies to deliver digital transformation, they must prioritize solutions that help manage citizen engagement and service delivery. Their communications infrastructure must allow them to perform at the speeds the public has grown to expect.
3. Compete with millennial-focused company cultures to attract new talent. At the recent Government Social Media Conference in Dallas, LinkedIn’s Emma Nicolle and Kathleen So highlighted the hiring challenges government faces. Agencies are competing against the private sector for fresh talent and, where the private sector has adapted to suit the working style of a new generation, government has been slower to change.
4. Mitigate crises with solid critical response plans. Social media has become the medium through which word of crisis situations spreads like wildfire. A strong critical response plan, directed through social media, can be a mitigating factor in containing a crisis situation. Spending the time and resources to develop a communications plan before an event takes place can allow teams to be quick, nimble and efficient with their response.
By leveraging social media, governments can control costs, increase transparency, earn greater public trust and create more positive public sentiment.
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