Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | A customer-centric approach to digital government can help agencies connect more individuals and families with critical services and strengthen the bonds of trust between government and those they serve.
The pandemic accelerated the growth of digital government, bringing health care, education and even court services online. For many people, though, digital interactions with state and local agencies remain low.
A recent survey conducted by the Deloitte Center for Government Insights found that most people in America still choose to interact with government in analog modes, including through call centers and in-person visits. In fact, just 23% of respondents said they regularly use digital channels to interact with government agencies, citing obstacles and challenges they’ve experienced when trying to access online services. At the same time, the survey identified several opportunities for agencies to make digital government services more attractive to constituents.
Barriers to Adoption and Reasons for Optimism
The survey found several reasons why digital government isn’t yet widely adopted, including:
- Middling satisfaction. On average, just 62% of survey respondents were satisfied with digital government services, compared with 81% of those satisfied with online services from private-sector organizations.
- Demographic divide. Younger residents were four times more likely to use digital channels than older people. Location and income also play an obvious role, with rural, unemployed residents or low-wage-earning residents less like to use digital government services that rely on internet access.
- Difficult online experience. While many residents prefer to access digital government services and resources via desktop and mobile websites—rather than through mobile apps, chatbots or call centers—the lack of user-friendly website navigation remains a major barrier.
- Privacy and security concerns. Many respondents have some reservations about the security and privacy of the data they provide to government sites.
Even in the face of these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic. Agencies can improve user experience, privacy and security, for example, and government leaders have ample opportunities to build trust and encourage participation.
Steps Agencies Can Take Tight Now
A citizen-centric approach is essential to a successful digital strategy. Tactics such as segmenting audiences, personalizing information and resources and focusing on proactive service delivery can lead to more engagement and equity. Here are three ways agencies can better tailor government services for their residents:
- Streamline services. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said that agencies repeatedly ask them for information they’ve already submitted, including names and Social Security numbers, which adds unnecessary steps for users. By adopting user-controlled digital identity solutions, agencies can securely share appropriate information among themselves and across government services.
- Focus on equity. There are stark differences—based on age, income, geography, education and race—between survey respondents who frequently use digital government services and those who don’t. Even though urban residents, for example, use more digital services, not everyone has equal access. Making free public Wi-Fi available in areas where service is limited or non-existent can spur adoption of online services. For those who primarily access services through their phones, agencies should ensure their services are optimized for mobile devices and consider leveraging advanced technologies like 5G to improve connectivity, speed and convenience.
- Increase privacy and security. Threats are constantly changing, and so are user expectations. Personal data must be secured, and users need to trust that their data won’t be mishandled or used for reasons other than obtaining government services. Agencies can start by explaining how data is secured and used and keep their privacy policies up to date as processes and circumstances change.
A customer-centric approach to digital government services can help connect more individuals and families with critical services and strengthen the bonds of trust between government and those they serve.
Michele Causey is a managing director for Deloitte Consulting LLP, leading the company’s digital transformation efforts for federal, state and local government agencies. Before joining Deloitte, she managed the social services and government transformation department at the MITRE Corp. She is a former member of the federal Senior Executive Service.