Conversations around the topics of digital government and smart cities are typically citizen-focused. After all, the goal of a municipality implementing new and emerging technology is to better the lives of its population. However, in order to do this effectively, the administrative system itself needs to function well as its own entity. Cloud technology is designed to help the government improve its own internal operations, which in turn facilitates a better way of life for constituents.
The Government of Canada states that citizens expect municipalities to deliver digital services that give them the same quality of user experience they get from commercial service providers such as financial institutions, online shopping services and social media services. Canadians also want these digital services delivered with the agility and speed necessary to keep pace with changing legislation and government service offerings.
A recent McKinsey survey about how governments can deliver exceptional customer experiences echoed similar sentiments for citizens in the United States. Of nearly 80,000 Americans surveyed, the report found that across all 50 U.S. states and 21 services, 60 percent of residents report a strong preference for digital channels, compared with 30 percent for phone and 27 percent for in-person.
With such a high citizen expectation for digital services, it’s important for governments to adopt digital technology to improve their daily functions. Not only does this increase citizen satisfaction, embracing digital tools also leads to significantly enhancing operations on the administrative side.
Let’s take a look at 5 ways that cloud-based technology can improve the internal operations of a municipality:
Since early 2020, the onset of Covid-19 has transformed the way we work and the places in which we do so. Many workers were relegated to the home, which necessitated effective communications strategies between employer and employee. Cloud-based technology has enabled more efficient communications in this regard, allowing both public and private entities to continue operating at a normal pace and with sometimes improved efficiency. Even though we have been transitioning back to the office recently, many are still operating on a hybrid system. The cloud allows a seamless transition between work and home, making the work the focus instead of the worker’s location. Everyone can access documents from a shared virtual space, and meetings can be held via video conferencing.
Cloud-based technology allows staff to work from the convenience of their own homes, or wherever they might be. This allows public service employees to reduce commute times and juggle their home lives more easily, creating an improved work-life balance for many people. If a staff member is feeling under the weather but not sick enough to take a leave day, he or she can also work from home and avoid spreading illness to others. This is a win-win on both sides: the employee can rest better at home while still being productive, and the employer doesn’t lose that productivity by having an employee take a sick day unnecessarily.
Cloud-based city services, such as payments of taxes and fines, allow workers to focus on more important and demanding tasks. Simple processes such as payments can be automated so that municipal human resources can be better spent in other areas. While some view automation as a cause for concern, it actually allows management to better utilize a worker’s skill set or train them for more meaningful and transformative work. This greatly improves performance at work and makes way for innovation and creativity in government operations.
Before the advent of the cloud, municipalities had to largely trust in a lock-and-key system when it came to confidential and sensitive information. Many smaller governments still operate off paper-based systems. And those who do have computer-based solutions might still be using outdated systems that are at an increased risk of breached security. Older computers are more likely to have unsupported software with known vulnerabilities, may not have sufficient hardware resources to run modern security tools, and may have weaker security protocols, such as weak passwords or lack of encryption. In order to combat these risks, information can now be housed in secure cloud-based storage, protected by complex passwords. While implementing cloud-based services can be a substantial initial investment, security breaches can cost a government substantially more money in the long run.
Citizens are particularly concerned about the way in which the public and private sectors handle their personal data. Cloud-based technology can help protect this data by providing advanced security measures, offloading the burden of maintaining security infrastructure, centralizing and unifying management of data, enabling efficient disaster recovery, and facilitating automatic software updates. This reduces the risk of data breaches caused by human error, security vulnerabilities, and other threats. The cloud service provider also takes responsibility for maintaining and updating the security infrastructure, freeing local governments from this cumbersome task. By using cloud technology, governments can ensure that citizen data is protected and secure, and is easily accessible when needed.
By adopting cloud-based technology, not only does the public sector improve the lives of citizens, it is also able to streamline its internal administration. But it’s about more than just adopting the cloud. Yes, the cloud is a secure, transparent and efficient platform that improves municipal performance. But the cloud also represents a reimagining of ingrained operational models. A desire to look towards the future and pave the way for other innovative paths forward in the public sector.