Connecting state and local government leaders
The vast majority of respondents want an accessible website with easy to access information and mobile tech to make it easier to engage with local agencies, according to a government technology company.
It is a tale almost as old as time: A resident sends an application to their local government for some kind of assistance, receives a cursory acknowledgement and then hears nothing for weeks. They wonder if their application has been lost, rejected outright or flagged for further analysis. And they wonder how their government is arriving at its final decision.
That scenario, which likely plays out thousands of times a year all over the country, sows distrust. In fact, just 41% of residents surveyed nationwide are satisfied with how their local agencies currently share information with the public, according to CivicPlus, a government technology and civic experience company.
More than 82% of residents said it is important for local governments to be transparent and allow access to their administrative decisions. That lack of transparency feeds into resident satisfaction, according to Brenden Elwood, vice president of market research at CivicPlus.
“The greater access that you provide for your constituents and for your residents, the less likely they're going to feel that you're holding something back,” he said. “[The] access to information is critical.”
The survey found that individuals who engage with their city's website more than once a month exhibit nearly five times higher trust in their city.
Respondents said the hallmarks of an accessible system include full public access to all information; easy to find information about meetings and agendas; instant notification about administrative decisions; notifications about updates to codes and ordinances their local government makes; and instant notifications about topics their local government will be addressing.
The findings come from the company’s National Community Survey, which gathered responses from more than 16,000 residents across the country in 2022.
There was popular support (69%) for mobile apps among those surveyed, which Elwood said governments can employ to promote “operational transparency.” Residents can use these apps to report quality-of-life issues such as potholes, overflowing trash cans or leaking fire hydrants and then track their local government’s response.
“That pothole that you drive over every day, you have a certain level of tolerance for it, knowing that it will be fixed,” Elwood said. “So, you call it in, and hopefully it gets fixed. Then when it gets fixed, you kind of move on. But resolving issues quickly, access to information, those are some key drivers on that trust paradigm specifically.”
The CivicPlus results are consistent with a McKinsey & Company survey last year, which found that state governments that invest more in technology and digitize their services build higher customer satisfaction and trust among their residents.
A lack of trust could also lead to a lack of adoption, the survey warned. People with the least trust in government tend to adopt technology more slowly. CivicPlus said it shows that agencies should identify late adopters and the barriers they face, and partner with technology solutions that are easy to use. Then, once the tools are in place, it is crucial to keep driving awareness of them.
“You have to meet them where they want to be met, when they want to be met,” Elwood said. “Then over time, you retool, you check back in. It's a whole journey. If you take your residents on the journey, you're open, you're upfront, it signals that you care, it signals that you value their needs. It also signals that you're not hiding anything, that you're truly trying to make things work better.”