Revolutionizing Civic Engagement with Smart Computing

Where do local governments stand in the era of digital-everything, and how can they leverage tech to work more efficiently at a time when budgets and staff resources have never been leaner?

by Ben Sebree, Director of Product Management / August 7, 2019

It’s not news that the ways individuals interact with entities, brands, and organizations today are digital-centric. The trend is evident everywhere you go, with caffeine-minded shoppers placing their mobile coffee orders, package deliveries coming as text messages, and customer service phone chats being replaced by web chats. Where do local governments stand in the era of digital-everything, and how can they leverage tech to work more efficiently at a time when budgets and staff resources have never been leaner? The good news is that municipalities of every size can leverage smart computing to enable the types of engagement citizens expect without investing in budget-breaking software or tech staffing resources.

What is Smart Computing?

Smart computing is the future of public service. And the future is now. Smart computing represents the new generation of software, network, and hardware interconnectivity that unites the physical with analytic computing systems.

How is Smart Computing Revolutionizing Civic Engagement?

Today’s citizens are no longer satisfied walking into city hall to pick up a permit, submit a job application, or pay their taxes. Smart computing allows any time, anywhere, device-agnostic interconnectivity between local leaders and their citizens. It streamlines data sharing and administrative processing in a way that even the hosting of disparate software systems of only five years ago could not accomplish, and the difference is in the cloud.

Every local government is searching for ways to improve transactional processes. Over the past several decades, municipalities have moved much of their manual, paper-based processes online, allowing for the digitalization of back-office administrative tasks such as payment processing, application reviews, bid submission acceptance, and service request management. The migration incorporated the use of unique, task-specific software systems. The challenges that emerged from this collection of separate, siloed software systems for each department’s administrations, included data redundancy, duplicative workflows, and a whole new era of inefficiency.

Today, hosted software applications are moving to the cloud and are becoming integrateable. Local governments choosing to invest in a central data repository and hub for their integrated software stack are benefitting from shared data, streamlined workflows, information accuracy, and pleased citizens at every digital touchpoint.

How Can Smart Computing be Affordable?

Local governments must account for the responsible allocation of every taxpayer dollar. Today’s voters will not tolerate wasteful spending or missteps when it comes to software investments. Fortunately, integrated software stacks and the time-saving benefits they offer, mean more significant cost-saving through greater efficiency. When it comes to public service, favorable economics can only be achieved by building an asset base and then leveraging it to automate the kinds of citizen services that otherwise require time-intensive, and costly staff interactions. In this way, the cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) offering, and it’s counterpart content as a service (CaaS), require only incremental investments and, in response, are allowing local governments to manage and optimize both tangible and intangible assets to grow revenue and improve margins.

Consider these real-life revenue-boosting benefits of digital citizen engagement opportunities:

  • Shawnee County, Kansas boosted in summer camp revenue 78 percent by offering online registrations.
  • Pinellas Park, Florida moved to a unified and integrateable content management system to shift to a citizen-centric service structure and boost revenue from community services.
  • The Clerk staff in Port Orange, Florida, saved an average of eight-plus hours a week moving from a paper-based to a digital agenda management process.
  • St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office expedited its hiring and onboarding process by moving to a paperless, cloud-based employee management solution.
  • The City of Kirkland, Texas, increased its spring activity and class enrollment by 32 percent by implementing a modern parks and recreation management solution.

The Future of the Digital Ecosystem

Digital government and smart computing continue to evolve, but one thing is for sure: They aren’t going away. Tech advancements fueling smart computing capabilities are on pace to further extend the reach of digital engagement capabilities into the realm of physical assets. With a growing universe of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, municipalities are on the cusp of becoming relevant to citizens’ lives in revolutionary ways. Think issuing a boil water advisory to smart refrigerators, using air quality data to send digital road signage warning messages automatically, and collecting smart sensor data to inform park facility strategy.

In an era where citizen engagement is limited only by our creativity, what next steps will you take to engage your community better?

About the Author Ben Sebree, Director of Product Management

As the Director of Product Management for CivicPlus®, Ben is primarily responsible for identifying opportunities for CivicPlus’ integrated portfolio of unified applications to continue to meet the evolving needs of local governments and their citizens using the latest paradigm-shifting technologies. His expertise and passion for innovation enable CivicPlus to remain at the forefront of the digital transformation revolution.

Ben has over eleven years of experience in the technology space with seven years focusing on enterprise platforms, integrations, IoT technology, AI, and CaaS. Products he's managed have received multiple industry awards, and today, his innovative processes still have numerous patents pending.

In addition to leading CivicPlus’ integrated solution offering, Ben is responsible for working with third-party partners to build industry-leading system integrations to enable CivicPlus’ solutions to further serve as the foundation for all local governments’ software stack needs. Ben holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information systems and Human Resources, and a Master of Business Administration from Kansas State University.

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