Is Good Government Beyond the Reach of Small Government?

Downtown Athens, Georgia

Downtown Athens, Georgia Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The pressure is on and the implications for local governments that fall behind in the shift to a digital society are immense.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the good government movement sprouted in cities across America.  Its members, dubbed “goo goos” by their detractors, instituted reforms designed to rid local governments of corruption and empower local citizens.

Today, small governments face a similar crisis. But the threat doesn’t come from corrupt officials; instead, it comes from a lack of access to technology that ultimately contributes both to government inefficiencies and the growing disenfranchisement of the largest demographic cohort in American history, the millennials.

Indeed, the Knight Foundation examined millennial attitudes toward government and found that only a third trusted local government, and even fewer trusted state or federal government.

This suggests that the problem is significant and that the best place to start addressing it is where respect for government is greatest.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the challenges are greatest.

The reason is that millennials are largely “digital natives,” heavily engaging with organizations and each other via the Internet. Local governments are unlikely to be able to join in, however, because they don’t always have the budget or staffing to implement digital platforms that can bring issues and information to voters.

In other words, they’re stuck doing government business “the old fashioned way,” using paper, email, and other limited resources that are time consuming, inefficient and disdained—not only by millennials, but by other demographic groups for whom digital communications, often cloud-based, have become a normal part of daily life.

Local rural governments face further challenges in areas where broadband availability can be limited, forcing residents to rely on their cell phones and wireless technology.

Larger municipal governments don’t seem to suffer such limitations and, thus, the good government divide between the technology “haves” and the “have nots” exacerbates inequalities in everything from managerial efficiencies to funding from sources both tax-based and not. In fact, a McKinsey study suggested that fully implemented government digitization around the world could have a $1 trillion impact by cutting costs and improving operations.

There are other implications. For example, local government clerks and staff come under increasing criticism and stress for everything from wasting paper on printed agendas and supporting documents, etc., to wasting time and talent in doing so.  And if staff members attempt to take the paper agenda process and provide the information online, the scan and upload method is often slow, documents aren't searchable, and they’re frequently not meeting the digital standards of those using the Internet to find information.

The pressure is on, and the implications for local governments that fall behind in the shift to a digital society are immense, because 20th century analog technology and thinking simply won’t work in the 21st century.

Fortunately, the marketplace is responding. Lindsay Parish, who works in the City Clerk’s Office of Paducah, Kentucky, says that by utilizing a free online software program like iCompass’ AgendaFree, which is built for local governments, she’s streamlined what was an unwieldy and time-consuming process. In the past, information about public agenda items was assembled in paper packets that could run to 150 pages; the packets had to be hand-delivered to elected officials, costing the city valuable time and resources. Now, by using the software, Lindsay says the administrative time spent in preparing and distributing documents has been significantly reduced, calls seeking information, clarification and assistance have declined, and paper usage has been cut by 85 percent, with the end result that more time now can be devoted to actually helping the public.

David Fierke, who is the city manager of Fort Dodge, Iowa, reports similar success. In pursuit of a better digital platform, he experimented with Facebook but found it to be limited in terms of the sorts of information that his government wanted to distribute.  Now he is able to develop paperless agendas with a user-friendly software application designed specifically for small governments.

Fierke, too, cites the freeing up of staff time as a major benefit. The cloud-based platform he uses literally saves hours of staff time every week because a searchable database allows visitors to find what they need quickly and easily. It’s a robust program that’s highly intuitive, Fierke reports, a valuable asset for an administration looking to run a leaner and more efficient operation.

The future is coming fast to small-town America. Productivity is being revolutionized in a workforce where millennials, now one-quarter of the U.S. population, will soon become the majority demographic.  They are 2.5 times more likely than other generations to be early adopters of technology and they will be entering the workforce of states and municipalities demanding that technology be fully exploited in the name of good government.

There are no longer any excuses.  The time has come to end the digital divide, to improve the efficiency of smaller local governments in a highly affordable manner, and to engage citizens of all ages in the public policy agenda.

Paul Blanchet is the Vice President of Customer Success & Operations at iCompass Technologies, a leading innovator in Web-based paperless agenda and records management software that’s has offices in Seattle and Kamloops, British Columbia.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Small city of Baldwin, GA with <5K residents reduces info calls to City Hall by 50%
Baldwin, GA, USA
Expanding broadband access with small cell deployment in City of Ontario
Ontario, CA, USA
Asheville Parks & Rec Strategic Plan Boosts Staff Participation & Deepens Community Relationships
Asheville, NC, USA

NEXT STORY: How Do the 50 States Stack Up According to Their ‘State Avenue Gravitas’ in D.C.?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.