Why 2016 will be the year of connected government

Interest, investment and enthusiasm in civic technology gained significant momentum in 2015. An emboldened level of citizen expectation for streamlined service delivery and transparency, and an interest in modernising, pushed local governments to explore innovative solutions.

Connected governments leveraged technology tools to better communicate with their constituents, automate processes and open up new levels of convenience – and, in turn, shape the landscape for citizen engagement in 2016.

Following on the developments of this past year, here are four trends that will play a major role in increasing government connectivity in 2016.

1. A shift toward open data will give rise to increased government transparency

Heading into 2016, only 11% of Americans believe governments share data with the public effectively – and the situation is similar in the UK. One of the primary frustrations is the amount of relevant and timely information that is available to communities online.

In today’s age of full transparency and empowerment, millennials and tech-connected residents believe they should have total access to any and all data concerning civic matters. As a result, they’re pushing local governments to open their data and provide easily digestible access.

>See also: Local government needs to make better use of big data – thinktank report

This means more and more government agencies will begin driving toward new engagement milestones and embracing a more open entrepreneurial spirit, including the use of online surveys, social media engagement with citizens, live streaming of public meetings, and the development of online portals to share relevant documents or meeting minutes.

This shift will not only improve citizen trust and transparency, but will also keep citizens up to date and informed, which allows for a more educated and cohesive community.

Many local governments are starting to do this through third-party resources that are already popular with their constituents, such as Yelp. Today, several health departments are providing health inspection data to Yelp and similar apps so that citizens can access these reports when choosing where to dine.

2. Regionalism brings the sharing economy to local governments

There is perhaps no hotter or buzzed about category than the sharing economy. Most every industry has been disrupted by the concept, except that of local governments. Until now.

The potential value of the sharing economy will total $335 billion by 2025, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and we will continue seeing this trend’s impact on the government.

As such, the consolidation of government services has begun to emerge across the country as a means to more efficiently provide services that individual units – usually smaller or underfunded – of government may not be able to offer on their own.

This collaboration will enable public agencies to shift away from their traditional siloed IT approach to make use of a shared, streamlined cloud platform where all citizen services are available.

As a result, we will begin seeing a more efficient use of development resources, platforms and IT support. This is already the case with services like MuniRent, which lets local municipalities rent equipment to one another, and has the capacity to offer the same convenience and cost benefits realised by consumers of Lyft and Airbnb.

On the state level, many agencies are already embracing the sharing economy. Most recently, Oregon created a voluntary, statewide ePermitting System on a single platform that is now shared with more than 20 separate jurisdictions,.

The potential of a sharing economy and its effects on regionalism in the area of civic engagement is only beginning to be seen.

3. Local governments will (finally) adopt IoT technology to deliver enhanced value for citizens

In 2016, government agencies will not only explore the possibilities of IoT, but also implement initiatives that will have a far-reaching impact on both business and personal lives.

They will finally become a ‘connected government’, with local agencies representing more than 25% of all government external spending to deploy, manage and realise the business value of the IoT by 2018.

Cities will begin tapping into the potential of the IoT world by identifying specific automated actions that might help solve concrete problems. For example, by equipping streetlights with sensors and connecting them to the network, cities can optimise their capacity with motion sensor technology and reduce energy consumption by as much as 80%.

>See also: When will UK government services have their ‘Uber moment’? 

As several jurisdictions continue their smart city planning, their focus will be aimed at exploring the ability to process huge masses of data coming from devices such as video cameras, parking sensors and air quality monitors to help local governments achieve goals in terms of increased public safety, improved environment and better quality of life.

According to Navigant Research, this shift will also generate massive new business for technology companies, with revenue for companies investing in smart city technologies expected to jump to $27.5 billion by 2023 from $8.8 billion in 2014.

4. Local governments will shift from reactive and responsive to proactive and predictive

Governments of all shapes and sizes are embarking on a multi-year, or perhaps even a multi-decade, trend to modernise their IT infrastructure.

In 2016, we will continue to see transformational shift in efficiency and effectiveness, in which government agencies will introduce a cloud-based digital strategy and move away from their traditional towered approach to IT.

Civic tech is showing no signs of slowing down, and the upward trajectory should continue in 2016 as citizen-facing software and services that connect citizens, tourists and businesses with government services continue to grow.

A proactive government is able to react to citizens’ life events without being prompted. This could be facilitated by the provision of data from third parties or by proactively providing services based on available data.

Few will confuse the civic sector for one that undergoes a tectonic shift overnight. However, 2015 showed that major gains have been made in a short period of time, and the coming months will bring about even greater progress in the government tech space.

Sourced from Maury Blackman, CEO, Accela

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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