How government can deliver powerful civic moments
As technologies intersect and draw information from one another, the line between citizens’ digital and physical lives has blurred. Consumers have gotten used to personalized digital experiences born of retailers’ and other businesses’ online access to their likes and interests. They expect their interactions with government to feel the same way.
This new digital economy creates both challenges and opportunities for government. The ability to satisfy constituents’ needs now and into the future depends on how effectively government can create “civic moments” that meet or exceed its customers’ expectations.
What is a “civic moment”?
Rick Howard, research director at Gartner, coined the term civic moment, describing it as “an event that triggers a series of cascading actions and data exchange across a network of people, businesses and things to achieve a singular objective.” In a government setting, civic moments are beginning to take shape as agencies collaborate to create one-stop online locations where citizens can complete multiple transactions.
Technology is already available to allow citizens to give a “virtual government assistant” information about themselves, such as their license plate number. Based on that information, the virtual government assistant knows when car registration renewals are due, that property taxes must be paid first and that the property also must be assessed. It then sends reminders for each of these events.
Government also can effectively create civic moments by leveraging multiple technologies, including mobile and social media. When an entrepreneur goes online to open a new business, for example, the state’s registration site is the entry point. But government can create a civic moment by providing the entrepreneur with other information and efficiencies. The site might recognize, for instance, that the entrepreneur has created another business previously. It then could pull relevant information, such as the entrepreneur’s contact information, from another platform.
Then, based on recognizing where the business will be located and what type of company it is, the site could add value by providing recommendations for other nearby resources -- a bank or a staffing firm, for example -- that might benefit the startup. The site also might provide data on traffic patterns so the entrepreneur knows when to expect the most motorist or foot traffic.
Civic moments benefit both government and citizens. Users can fulfill their requirements all at once, digitally, without having to complete multiple forms, drive to a government office and stand in line or make several phone calls to get essential information. Efficiencies that reduce costs and free up employee time for other tasks create goodwill and – considering that the site in the example above could ask the entrepreneur to set up a payment schedule for business taxes – could even increase government revenues.
How government can create more civic moments
Government is at the fledgling stage of creating powerful civic moments. Increasingly, government agencies are moving their services online, which is a good start. The next step is interagency information-sharing and accessing user information from mobile, social media and other platforms so that the constituent only needs to complete a form once and all agencies receive the information they need from that single data entry point.
To create high-value civic moments, government should:
Measure constituent satisfaction with citizen surveys that ask how agencies are doing and how they could better deliver services. The results will point out where users see opportunity for greater efficiencies.
Initiate cross-agency discussions to review the surveys, identify every way a constituent might engage with government and determine how a one-stop approach could simplify these interactions. In most cases, agencies shouldn’t limit these discussions to their level of government. User interactions often involve federal, state and local government, and agencies should consider how representatives at all three levels can be involved in the process of creating efficient, satisfying civic moments.
Work across agencies to merge back-end operations and incorporate multiple platform technologies to create a better front-end experience.
Think in terms of the citizen, not agency processes. Increasingly, citizens expect interactions with government to take place from a single-user interface with one login. To create civic moments, agencies need to anticipate citizen needs and provide multiple services in one location.
At its core, a civic moment is human centered. Government agencies have a duty to focus on constituents at all times and to create the best civic moments possible for the people they serve.
Jeff Shaw is vice president of IT for NIC Inc.