The needs and expectations of citizens have been dramatically altered by the anytime, anywhere nature of the digital age. How successfully citizens are served by government depends on understanding their roles and perspective – and recognizing that citizens interact with the government on three distinct levels, according to a new report from a leading public-private partnership group.
A model developed by the ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation and released in a new report today proposes that government focus their interaction with citizens around three major constituencies: citizen partners, citizen advocates and citizen consumers. The report is one of series of calls to action aimed at senior government leaders, issued by the American Council of Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.
Due to the quick adoption of technology over the last two decades, today’s citizenry has more diverse requirements and expectations than ever. This diversity directly impacts how, when and where citizens engage with one another, with businesses and with the government.
Not only has living in a digital world altered how Americans interact, but it has also created new expectations for real-time, effective and relevant access to anything, anytime – and that includes government services. Citizens are also looking for a better user experience.
These expectations have caused a major paradigm shift in the relationship between citizens and government, not only in how citizens consume services, but also work with government. Understanding and embracing how the needs and expectations of citizen has changed is critical to government’s success and reputation.
The report outlined three major constituencies that interact with government:
Citizen partners are those who will work with government to accomlish the coutnry’s goals more efficiently and effectively, with ideas, labor and research.
Citizen advocates are those who seek to alter or transform government services, legislation and polices individually and through the power of communities of interest.
Citizen consumers are direct and indirect consumers of government services that tend to organize around stages of their lives or communities of interest.
Citizen and government collaboration allows services to be designed around the needs of a constituency, not just a branch of government. The current trend toward open data and transparency must continue to grow, the report said. This trend is a key enabler to an informed citizenry and promotes collaborative citizen-empowered innovation.
By providing access to appropriate data for citizen use – both for informational and collaborative purposes – government can maximize investments with a clear return on taxpayer dollars through cost-effective service delivery models.
To accomplish this, government must transition from a traditional and reactive service delivery model to a proactive framework where citizens are engaged in the design and delivery processes.
The institute made the following recommendations toward that end:
Define standards of commitment and performance. Data driven engagement is key to enabling active participation. Governments have made great strides in providing data, but they must make it more interpretable to the general consumer. Government must also do a better job defining standards of commitment and performance while taking an analytical approach to management and delivering services. Communication and dissemination of relevant statistics is at the heart of a modern and vibrant democracy.
Develop key indicator measurements at the presentation layer of information. This could be in the form of a dashboard of qualitative and quantitative information citizens and government agree upon for service and performance measurement. The transparent presentation design should be real-time and enable two-way communication. Direct citizen input that can be easily shared and modular allows the presentation of the information to become a data set in itself.
Involve citizens in the formation and evaluation of data sets. Data is enabling citizens to become more informed and ready to act than ever before. In their daily lives, citizens consume, collect, and share data that is important to them. Therefore, government should involve the citizenry in forming and evaluating data sets, whether as official contributors or part of a point-in-time engaged audience. One approach could be to develop mobile applications and portals that enable collection and evaluation of data in real-time centered around specific topics. That could be taken further by developing a secure, personalized window to government.
Move to two-way communication. Through social media tools, everyone can communicate directly with the White House. No one must wait for Congress to speak on his or her behalf. Whether government is actively listening and engaging or not, citizens are using technology to provide input on rules and policies. This is an example of communication that is asymmetrical, but not two-way. With an effective and proactive two-way engagement approach throughout all levels of government on critical policy, legislative issues or those that shape service delivery, citizen advocates have the ability to contribute to the process and collective work of government. It would also help resolve issues more quickly and satisfactorily and escalate them through the chain of local, state and federal entities as necessary to address citizen needs.
Develop secure digital windows to government for business – and citizen services. Today, government is making progress on building windows of access into business services that offer an opportunity to improve processes and maximize the use of investments. Sites such as the beta version of the Business.USA.gov website web take the first step to streamline content for businesses by crowd sourcing material from the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and others. Similarly, citizens used to getting their financial information have reason to expect to access secure government-wide personal account information to see their information from the IRS, the Social Security Administration or perhaps the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. A personalized digital experience would tailor information to the individual and his/her geographic requirements
The report was prepared by a group of more than 100 volunteers from government and industry to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, as part of ACT-IAC’s and the Innovation Institute’s Quadrennial Government Technology Review. (Breaking Gov is a sponsoring member of the Institute of Innovation.)