The LG digital 'quickening'

Open Cities
By Jordan Gesundheit, Director of Platform Enablement, OpenCities
Friday, 29 October, 2021


The LG digital 'quickening'

Australians have become newly familiar with our neighbourhoods over the last 18 months and the phrase “local government area” or “LGA” has crept into common vernacular. Our LGA has become an extension of our balconies and backyards, and the extreme circumstances of the pandemic have highlighted local government’s role in delivering services and information that directly impact people’s daily lives.

Living through a pandemic, we’ve realised people increasingly need and expect local services and information to be delivered online with a seamless user experience.

It’s no surprise to learn then that digital transformation is now the highest priority of local government leaders in Australia, according to Davidson’s Australian Local Government CEO Index 2021.

As councils across the nation focus on meeting this new demand for online civic engagement, the challenge now is to deliver solutions that help people during this crisis and beyond.

Transforming government services

Service is at the heart of local government, and during the pandemic, people have needed other ways to access services while face-to-face options are suspended. Many councils have accelerated their digital journey and have worked swiftly to digitise paper-based services and improve or even overhaul their existing online service capabilities.

McKinsey has called the last 18 months ‘the quickening’, with 10 years of change fast-tracked in response to the fallout from COVID-19. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to accessing everything we need in the palm of our hand. It’s become clear that residents now expect the same from their councils.

Local governments have an opportunity to join the quickening movement, to update or adapt their services in line with community expectations and other providers. Not only does the digitisation of vital services and information to communities need to happen rapidly, it must be futureproofed.

The rise of iterative, no-code government

The ingredients for a successful council transformation project include analytics, change management, customer experience design and project management. The challenge is that local governments often lack the skills and resources to execute a comprehensive and successful transformation program, according to the Customer and Technology Transformation in Local Government 2019 report by KPMG and Public Sector Network.

Councils face a number of challenges around privacy, security and compliance and there is considerable planning needed to improve digital services with new technology, but this can be accommodated with the right partners and tools. Ignoring the challenge will only make it worse.

The risk and cost of doing nothing is real, whether it’s the risk of cybersecurity breaches and resulting reputational damage, the increased cost to serve and pain felt by customer service due to a poor digital customer experience, or the high cost of trying to iterate using dated technology. The alternatives will ultimately come at greater expense than embracing modern technology.

Scalable, cloud-based platforms offer a complete and affordable toolset that can adapt to communities of all sizes. There are also no-code solutions purpose-built for local governments that can integrate with core business systems while empowering staff to transform the front end experience for residents. Councils can deliver meaningful outcomes without the need for expensive, technical and resource-intensive transformation projects that can take years to complete.

South Australia’s City of Unley empowered its staff and optimised service delivery by embracing low-code technology. During a recent digital transformation project, the council brought many manual, form-based processes such as parking renewals online, made its web presence more dynamic, and established the ability to publish important updates in close to real time. In all, over 1600 content pages were created or updated by 34 staff over the last year.

At the same time, overall customer service satisfaction rates increased, reaching their highest-ever ranking of 91 per cent. Significant outcomes like this can be achieved when government staff are armed with the skills, data and no-code technologies they need to thoughtfully stand up new digital experiences that put customers front and centre.

The digital town hall of the future

A digital transformation project is a real chance for local government to create an online town hall for residents.

For councils embarking on these projects, it can be daunting to create the comprehensive suite of information, engagement and customer service channels that bring local services into the digital realm. But, when carefully managed, budget and resources need not be a handbrake on achievable outcomes.

At their best, digital government platforms are the conduit for individuals to easily find information and interact with services. The goal is to help people access services, source local information and provide feedback, all in one place at their fingertips.

Digital government has the potential to lower the cost of service delivery, deepen civic engagement and ultimately build trust in government.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/David Townsend

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