Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | Doing so can offer residents a digital one-stop shop for interacting with local government, while also improving the experience.
Covid-19 accelerated digital transformation in the public sector, forcing government to come up with creative solutions and pushing back-burner digital projects ahead with an urgency we couldn’t have anticipated.
As a result, we find ourselves and our industry moving toward a new era of digital government. For local governments, I believe this recent push demands a new way for citizens and businesses to interact with their city in the form of a Virtual City Hall.
Defining the Virtual City Hall
A virtual city hall is a holistic solution that creates a digital home base for more engaging and convenient interactions between a government and its citizens.
As stated in a recent GovLoop article, “When agencies try to deliver real-time services digitally with existing processes, constituents often suffer long wait times and clunky services…Agencies of all types and sizes would benefit from deploying a citizen engagement platform that offers comprehensive capabilities for improving the citizen experience while also giving employees the tools they need to improve service.”
The virtual city hall concept is the ultimate answer to this call for a comprehensive citizen engagement platform. From paying a fine to reporting a fallen tree to finding information specifically relevant to you, a virtual city hall can empower every type of interaction between local government and its residents. It also serves elected officials and government workers, providing a more well-rounded view of data, increasing efficiency and empowering greater impact for every department.
When governments embrace this kind of solution, technology can help to forge a better relationship between officials and citizens through increased transparency, better efficiency and improved accountability. Through these interactions, the relationship between governments and their residents can become more intelligent, collaborative, timely and valuable.
A few other benefits of a virtual city hall include:
- Increased awareness of, and accessibility to, government services.
- Improved engagement among all stakeholders within a community (internal and external).
- Data collection capabilities that power efficient and effective resource allocation and project planning.
- Self-service capabilities that allow in-person workers to focus on those who can’t access digital services.
- Improved trust in government capabilities, processes and functionalities.
The prospect of launching this type of comprehensive digital experience can sometimes feel insurmountable, but steps towards virtual city halls are already being made by communities large and small.
Most are beginning with smaller projects, like enabling self-service solutions across channels for one department at a time. But rather than viewing these individual initiatives as the end goal, these cities are establishing a robust citizen engagement platform step by step on their way to creating a fully functional virtual city hall.
To begin this journey for your city, it helps to first compile a list of the current services you provide to the community. Then, identify which services have the biggest opportunity to improve efficiency and citizen experiences. These are often the services most plagued by outdated technology, data silos between departments or systems, large amounts of paperwork or cumbersome processes for the public.
This exercise will result in a short list of services that should make up the first phase of a virtual city hall, while helping to establish a roadmap for future iterations. As the city of Pico Rivera, California determined in its virtual city hall rollout, this approach allows you to make a real difference for your community without overhauling everything at once.
Once you have your high-level roadmap in place, it’s time to identify the technology solution that will power your virtual city hall. Seek a single software platform that’s comprehensive enough to handle the wide range of needs, while remaining flexible enough to adapt to your city’s current and future needs. Your software vendor of choice should then be able to collaborate with your team to create a detailed implementation strategy.
From there, you may be surprised at just how quickly things can progress. In a matter of a few short months, phase one of your virtual city hall could be up and running—streamlining work for city staff and providing the public with higher quality services.
Rajiv Desai is the co-founder and CEO of 3Di Systems, where he oversees the company’s mission to empower digital transformation through capable software platform solutions.