Do local governments need a digital strategy? if so, why?
A few weeks back I was asked to facilitate workshops for a local council (shire) to help them identify where they are positioned in their digital transformation journey.
With fifteen people around the table we acknowledged that we are all affected by technology and its fast paced digital world, we cannot escape it or out run it. Firstly, as individuals, then as a member of the local community. Whether its towns, cities or municipalities we are all connected to the digital world in some way.
The attendees all agreed that the digital world is here to stay and we need to adapt if we want to stay relevant and fulfil the needs of today’s customers. During the workshop we explored the dual nature of digital media – the good and the bad. Such as connecting people and disconnecting them at the same time.
So what are today’s digital customers seeking from our local councils? Customers want an ability to have real-time access to the relevant information. They want access to systems they can interact with and find the information they need without having to call a help line. This provides transparency into the services run by the council (e.g. various planning applications, response to the complaints, pet’s registrations and so on).
Customers are expecting to have 24/7 access to the relevant information related to their transactions or communication with local authority. Internal customers – council staff are also seeking better systems that will reduce manual data entry, avoid paper trails and provide quick access to relevant information from anywhere.
What would be the main purpose of a digital strategy for local government?
In my opinion a digital strategy needs to support the council’s strategy. The purpose of such strategy is to recognise that the world – through technology – is changing and so are people’s habits. Then, describe the way the local council plans to respond and embrace those changes in people’s behaviours and expectations.
A complete digital strategy will outline guiding principles in terms of systems selection, communication channels, social media, capital projects and business systems. It should describe the attributes of future systems such as being cloud based, better security, improved visual standards, connectivity and so on. All of the above must be relevant and support the desired outcomes.
Once equipped with an achievable Digital Strategy the council can begin their digital transformation journey. Identifying the right technology vendors; enabling their products and services to have a meaningful conversation towards achieving the council’s key goals and objectives. A digital strategy will simplify selection and the integration process and customers will greatly benefit from council’s services.