By 2017, 1.5 million users viewed more than 8.7 million pages on state transparency websites. However, successful governments do more than just release budgets or use “smart” technology platforms. They see data as a starting point for communicating with citizens to start meaningful conversations.

In response, smart municipalities are using technology to reach out to citizens in unprecedented ways. Today’s cities, counties and states have a mandate to deliver services, share information and collaborate with citizens consistently. Technology is an acknowledged, cost-effective force-multiplier they are embracing.

So how will innovative communities take citizen engagement and transparency to the next level through technology?

Consolidating data. By leveraging broad-based technology solutions that consolidate data across multiple areas, such as public safety, community development, finance, tax and utilities, communities can simplify their data extraction and combine that data to present it to citizens. This big-picture, comprehensive data allows for better citizen-government dialog.

More analysis. Information extraction and presentment are equally important. It’s more effective to focus adequate time for analyzing, correlating and presenting the information in a meaningful way that will appeal to citizens. Machine-learning technology can also allow for the analysis of data patterns that are less visible to the human eye and improve the value of data.

Using the cloud. Many public sector entities are limited by internal silos (or departments) that block information flow and prevent information from being correlated, extracted and presented out to citizens as part of an effective communication strategy. SaaS-based technologies make it easier to work with data because the data is stored natively in the cloud and easily accessible.

Technology partners. Public sector entities should be seeking out relationships with technology companies that have a strategic vision that includes things like predictive analytics, machine learning and IoT so that they can improve information flow internally and leverage data from different operational areas. Data can be used to provide citizens with information on everything from cost of living in different neighborhoods in a city, to tax/utility rates, traffic patterns, etc.

Here are some examples of how smart municipalities are engaging residents and providing ways for citizens and government to work together:

  • Online council/committee meetings. Live webcasts and/or video archives provide a modern twist on citizen participation, making proceedings available to those who are unable to attend a Tuesday night session in council chambers.
  • Web-based citizen engagement tools. Online polls, surveys and checklists give citizens easy ways to connect from the comfort of their own homes. Simple programs, like an“adopt-a-hydrant” program, can give citizens a way to get personally involved with activities that benefit their community.

  • External scorecards or dashboards. Citizens can access online tools that measure progress on strategic goals or provide service quality measures. By 2020, two-thirds of all smart city execution strategies will incorporate key performance indicators, allowing citizens to help identify and prioritize initiative. 
  • E-commerce platforms. Citizens are looking for easy, secure ways to make electronic payments for government services and fees. Moving your payments online provides reliable visibility and makes access more convenient for the community.

Transparency and community engagement are fundamental to the process of governing. Technology will continue to bring governments improvements in internal processes and efficiencies. Smart governments will harness those tools to educate and engage citizens for better policies, services and community development.