3 Ways Governments Can Create 'Mobile Moments' (Industry Perspective)

Agencies who are winning at mobile accessibility have learned to anticipate their constituents’ needs in that moment when a citizen attempts to find and use a service in a particular context.

by Bob Sanders / September 11, 2015
As Arkansas developed its mobile strategy, it created a “personal government assistant” called Gov2Go, an app that gets citizens to the government services they need via their mobile devices, among many other things.

If you've been using a smartphone for several years, you may not remember what it was like when you first began using it each and every day. Let me refresh your memory: Most websites didn't work well. You were delighted when one of your favorite websites provided a mobile version or released an app. This new convenience was so much better than how it worked before.

Today when you use a smartphone, you likely notice something different — a feeling of frustration when a website doesn't scale nicely to your mobile device. You might feel irritated when you can’t find an app for your favorite service in the app store. This change in your perspective is what Forrester Research calls the mobile mind shift. It is the expectation that you will be able to find the information and services you want in your moment of need. 

The mobile mind shift applies to government services too. A decade ago, a government agency’s primary online presence included a website and online services that citizens and businesses accessed from their (wired) home or office desktop computers. Today’s citizens expect to get whatever information they want, whenever they want it, wherever they are, using their mobile devices. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 64 percent of Americans own smartphones, and some 147 million Americans own tablets. By 2018, Gartner predicts that more than 50 percent of users will use one of these devices first for all online activities.

Mobile users expect responsive information to be available on government websites — and if it’s not, the agency has lost an opportunity to deepen the constituent’s loyalty and, sometimes, to generate revenue.

While some state and federal agencies are very progressive when it comes to mobile accessibility, others lag far behind private industry in creating the “mobile moments” that are redefining every constituent relationship. Often, even agencies that grasp the value placed on mobile access are still thinking in terms of devices to support or which native mobile apps to build.

The key to meeting this new demand for service is to understand and leverage the mobile moment – that moment when a citizen attempts to find and use a service in a particular context. Agencies who are winning at mobile accessibility have learned to anticipate their constituents’ needs in these moments.

Here are three ways government agencies can discover and leverage mobile moments to provide the best experiences for citizens.

1. Understand your users’ behaviors and create mobile moments around them

Say, for example, that a citizen gets invited to the lake for a day of fishing and shows up without a license, not knowing until he gets there that one is required. 

By understanding that this could be a common user situation, Utah translated the behavior into a mobile service that delivers a license on the spot. Using his mobile phone, the citizen can receive a fishing license in real time. The smartphone serves as a digital license and no paper license is required. The citizen gets what he needs, and the Utah Department of Natural Resources has enhanced its brand and reputation by providing a smooth experience that engaged the user during a key mobile moment.

2. Take away citizens’ pain points

Sometimes citizens feel confused about where to go within a government organization to accomplish certain tasks, especially those situations that cross several government agencies. When that happens, they can feel overwhelmed about interacting with government. 

As Arkansas developed its mobile strategy, it hired a market research firm to find out where citizens’ pain points were. Researchers discovered that users felt anxious about government interactions for services like property tax payments or professional license renewals because they didn’t know exactly what they had to do or which agency to contact. What they wanted was a single channel where they could say what they wanted to achieve and receive simple, straightforward instructions for getting it done.

Arkansas responded by developing a “personal government assistant,” Gov2Go, a first-of-its-kind app that gets citizens to the government services they need via their mobile devices. Gov2Go tracks upcoming deadlines and tasks that citizens need to perform across multiple levels of government, sends notifications and reminders, and provides simple instructions for completing tasks.

3. Build a relationship

Rather than focusing on one or two types of transactions, analyze the complete lifecycle of a citizen over a year. For example, a person moving to a new city must interact with multiple layers of government. A mobile application might recognize that the individual has moved, advise the citizen on how to register to vote, notify her about an upcoming election, provide directions to the specific voting location and report on election night results. 

With wearable technology and the Internet of Things, mobile continues to evolve. No longer is a responsive website enough. Government agencies must think in terms of an entire lifecycle of citizen interactions with government and respond with mobile services that anticipate needs and provide solutions in a single mobile channel.
 
In the end, when citizens can easily register and comply with a variety of government interactions, agencies will enjoy a higher constituent satisfaction level and a higher rate of compliance.
 
As general manager for the Arkansas Information Consortium, a subsidiary of NIC Inc., Bob Sanders studies and promotes mobile technology. He gives presentations around the country on leveraging mobile technology in government. Sanders can be reached at bob@ark.org.