In a world contending with the impact of ongoing disruption, governments face increasingly difficult challenges as they seek to balance fiscal, economic and social pressures with the need to provide better outcomes for all, as well as those who live within national borders.
To help governments and public agencies gain a deeper understanding of how these upheavals are changing the public and its perceptions of government, EY has launched Connected Residents. This new initiative featured a global survey of residents in 12 countries to assess how their expectations of how government and public services are changing.
Given the events of last year, the survey asked a number of questions related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, the survey found that amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, people said they were most concerned about whether their basic needs were being met, from access to high-quality health care to a sense of safety in their community.
The pandemic also accelerated our reliance on technology and that was reflected in the survey results, with 64% of the people responding to the global survey saying they expect to make even more use of technology in the future than if the pandemic had not happened.
At the same time, while governments have accelerated the shift toward the digitalization of many public services, they continue to lag behind parts of the private sector, such as online shopping and banking, in terms of meeting expectations for online service delivery. Governments still have a way to go on their digital journey to bridge that gap, particularly in the US where they face additional challenges in their efforts to serve digitally engaged residents.
This article will touch on the challenges facing government in the US as we offer a detailed breakdown of the survey results.
How can governments improve digital engagement?
To fully harness the potential of data and technology, governments in the US will need to overcome the concerns many residents have for going online to conduct business. The digital divide poses significant risks for the future of the US if certain segments of the population are left behind. To that end, governments will need to adopt data-driven approaches to better understand residents’ needs, target services proactively, evaluate complex public policies and deliver better outcomes for residents in a more cost-effective way.
Government entities in the US can also do more to clarify the benefits of sharing data and show residents that it will be used in responsible ways. For example:
In addition, while many Americans favor digital technologies for accessing government services, they also prefer options like phone and in person. As a result, governments should avoid a “digital by default” approach and offer multiple channels to provide full and equal access. The survey also found greater acceptance for digital services when technology enables interaction between people.
At the same time, a growing percentage of Americans, particularly the young and affluent, are more comfortable with technology. To meet their expectations, US governments may want to consider the following:
- Setting up unique digital IDs that allow residents to gain easier access to a range of services through multiple digital channels
- Building smart portals and mobile apps that provide one-stop access to multiple government services, as well as push timely messages and updates
- Establishing integrated digital platforms that enable data sharing across different government systems, to create a complete view of the resident and organize services around people’s needs and life events
US resident personas
As we analyzed the data, we defined seven distinct resident personas: Diligent Strivers, Capable Achievers, Privacy Defenders, Aspirational Technophiles, Tech Sceptics, Struggling Providers and Passive Outsiders.
Each group interacts differently with technology and digital services, with each holding different lessons and challenges for governments seeking to better engage with all residents. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work for all the personas. That means governments will need to tailor outreach to meet the needs of not only the most technically sophisticated residents, but also those who for various reasons will struggle to access online services.
Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for providing improved access to digital services in the US. While taking steps to close the digital divide may help, for the immediate future, US governments will need to provide a broad range of options to provide access to all residents.
By Brad Duncan & Chris Estes
About the authors: Brad Duncan is Ernst & Young LLP US Government & Public Sector State Local & Education Leader; Chris Estes is Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) US State, Local & Education Market/Finance, Operations & Technology Leader.
This article originally appeared at https://www.ey.com/en_us/government-public-sector/how-can-digital-government-connect-residents and is republished with permission.