Do you remember Dick Tracy? The 1930s comic strip detective solved crime using advanced gadgetry. His iconic two-way wrist radio was extremely futuristic for its time yet look at us now. Nearly everyone today walks around with a smartphone in their pocket that can not only make phone calls but also send email, text messages and surf the Internet. Embracing and using technology allows us to work smarter and communicate better. We’re at a same turning point when it comes to embracing and utilizing new technology to adopt a more virtual government.
There are tremendous benefits to governments operating more virtually. Both private and public sector communication requires collective engagement, access, and information sharing all of which can be amplified by virtual technologies.
Networking through technology provides significant opportunities for continual education as well. Virtual conferences and training can ease financial burdens, provide a work-around to travel restrictions and the ability to target a more specific audience. Today’s technology also keeps the communication at virtual events secure so event planners and participants don’t have to worry about sharing sensitive information.
In a recent Huffington Post article, GovLoop founder Steve Ressler discussed an online training course that included a variety of learning mechanisms to provide an integrated learning experience for participants. The online training included a virtual classroom, webinars, online discussions, blog posts, podcasts and tools for self-paced learning and peer reflection.
Hybrid in-person and virtual conferences offer another alternative. In the same Huffington Post article, a CDC conference is referenced having transformed a traditionally in-person conference to a hybrid in-person/virtual event that subsequently doubled the number of participants.
Social media and crowdsourcing are additional online outlets for networking that can be very productive for reaching and involving the public in government issues. Rep. Mike Honda discussed these benefits in a recent Gigaom article saying social media tools like Facebook and Twitter foster two-way conversations with constituents unlike political ads and mass mailings.
Crowdsourcing also allows government representatives and civil servants to ask citizens for help solving specific problems. For example, the website SeeClickFix is a platform used by municipal governments that allows citizens to call attention to problems in their neighborhood like clogged storm drains, downed traffic lights, potholes and graffiti. When governments know where the problems are, they can calculate the most efficient way to fix them.
Other virtual benefits include:
- Global collaboration: Virtual technology is a tool for global collaboration to address critical challenges and issues such as security, health and the environment.
- Equal access: Virtual procurements offer equal access for vendors and full transparency potentially leading to fewer protests on contracts.
- Resilience: Technology can provide virtual resilience with interoperable communications for emergencies, training exercises along with operational backup and coordination.
- Customer service relief: Virtual call centers and service desks can provide additional help during a temporary influx of calls and requests.
- Accessibility to the public: The digitization of records and websites like .gov provide equal access to information and supplementary resources to the public.
Countless technologies and tools are available to help governments operate more efficiently and effectively. A virtual government increases collaboration between citizens and their government and creates a more interactive work environment between colleagues and departments. This isn’t Dick Tracy gadgetry. It’s available, accessible and it’s time to utilize and embrace its benefits to improve government operations.