Almost half of citizens have complaints about their city’s infrastructure – things like potholes, damaged sidewalks, graffiti on sides of buildings – but only 26% of them bother to report the issue.

Why such an abysmal rate of engagement? Because it’s often not easy to make these reports. The obstacles that citizens encounter when it comes to proactively engaging with their local government include:

  • Not knowing where or how to report a problem
  • Perception that it will take too long to fill out a service request about the problem
  • Concerns that the request either won’t be answered promptly or won’t get answered at all

With the all-encompassing, end-to-end role technology plays in our lives, local governments have the unique ability to capture and encourage citizen interactions today at a significantly higher rate than in the past. It should be a priority for local agencies to empower citizens to contribute to their communities through technology.

Where do governments begin?

When it comes to technology, a critical piece of the citizen engagement puzzle is to build with the citizens, not build for the citizens.

User experience is everything when it comes to the successful implementation of technology – if people don’t like the technology or find it difficult to use, they simply won’t use it. And if they feel they must, chances are, they will feel resentful as a result. A local agency should listen to what citizens want from the digital engagement tools that are supposed to serve them. Collaboration is everything; people like to feel included.

Benefits

The benefits local agencies stand to gain from building with instead of for its citizens are plenty. When residents feel their voices are heard, and when they know where to find digital government services, they are more likely to engage. Effective communication about a local agency’s digital citizen engagement platform is key to increasing its usage.

Here are some ways local governments can use technology to increase citizen engagement:

  • Identify trends

Governments already gather tremendous amounts of data. Being able to analyze and automate the mass amounts of data will allow local agencies to spot trends in citizen behavior, enabling them to adapt to citizen expectations and build engagement.

  • Respond faster

Citizens want to be kept in the loop and updated on the progress of their complaint or service request. Enabling communicative alerts and updates to be sent directly to citizens via smartphones and other mobile devices about a service request builds more trust and confidence in the local agency, prompting future engagement. 

  • Ease of use

Forty percent of citizens want a one-stop shop from their government’s digital engagement platform. Making the process of paying a utility bill, reporting a problem or applying for a permit as simple and unified as possible will encourage citizens to engage more frequently.

Technology has made everyday tasks simpler and more user-friendly – why shouldn’t technology work the same way for us when we engage with our local government?