It seems as though everywhere you look this year, there's a negative news story about government technology.
Case in point: during the Iowa Caucus in February, the state introduced a new—and apparently untested—mobile app that was supposed to streamline the voting and tallying process. After caucus workers had difficulty downloading, logging into, and actually using the tech, officials were forced to count votes through photos of hand-written tallies.
Though this specific incident was an obvious fail, and a chaotic attempt to roll out new technology in the government sector, we shouldn't lose faith in what technology can do for the government.
There are a number of prime examples that showcase how much good technology can do to streamline processes, cut costs and improve relationships with constituents.
In fact, in the same state, in that same week as the caucuses, the Iowa DOT (Department of Transportation) forms portal went live, making it easier for constituents to interact with the DOT online services. Despite the portal being a brand new initiative for the State of Iowa, the DOT has already digitized 350 forms, which has the potential to save the department thousands of hours in work, and thousands of dollars in processing fees.
Below, we’ll take a look at five other times government agencies rolled out new technology, correctly, and how a proper process can lead to positive, and beneficial results to a department.
1. Sacramento, California
The City of Sacramento has digital forms for 13 departments in their city, which on average, collectively processes 2,342 monthly.
By digitizing forms like new construction inspection requests, facilities maintenance requests, and anonymous crime tips, the city estimates they save about 3,057 hours per week on handling forms.
To ensure digitization of the forms was more helpful than harmful, website administrator for the City of Sacramento, Greg Western, paid close attention to the introduction of its new technology, SeamlessDocs. “We just started reaching out to all of the departments in our office and asking who needed forms digitized. There were a lot of requests right off the bat,” explains Western.
To ramp up to the release, instead of tackling everything at once, Western and his team, “Prioritized forms that received a lot of submissions and required processing by staff. These forms, especially the ones being collected on paper, required a lot of effort on processing and data entry. By digitizing these forms and reducing the processing effort, we were able to generate the biggest return.”
Takeaway: Incremental implementation of new technology can decrease hiccups, and ensure a smooth transition to a new process in your department.
2. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)
Cross-agency information sharing is often easier said than done. But, lack of visibility into other department’s actions can cost agencies money, lost productivity, and mistakes.
To improve their process for monitoring activities of former inmates, the CDCR decided to digitize their workflow. But, before rolling out their technology needs, the CDCR conducted plenty of research, to find other roll out plans to model.
From their research, they knew proper implementation of technology meant focusing on:
- Innovation and automation: Delivering something new, agile and flexible in an easy-to-use way.
- Configurable functionality: Customizing technology to fit specific needs of the end-users.
- Interoperable infrastructure: For cross-agency needs, the technology needed to seamlessly integrate within other business processes.
- Plug-and-play deployment and procurement: Eliminating lost productivity, internal friction and low adoption rates by deploying technology without impacting the existing system.
Their attention to detail led to great results.
“The savings have been substantial,” says CDCR representative Jeffery Funk. Funk believes the department has saved half a million man hours, or the work of 200 staff, each year. Additionally, the new program drives safety for California citizens and simple reintegration for its parolees.
Takeaway: Don’t reinvent the wheel. When rolling out new technology look to departments who have done it in the past, and learn from their successes and failures.
3. Bristol, Connecticut
Bristol's Information Technology Department partnered with SeamlessDocs to convert more than 100 paper-based forms into online services so its residents and City Hall staff could have better access and a better experiment when working with government agencies.
According to Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, the transition to paperless forms is projected to save Bristol “more than 1,000 hours a month in processing time, on top of added savings attributed to reduction of printing and storing printed submissions.
To ensure proper implementation of the new technology, SeamlessDocs provided Bristol with a combination of onsite and online services, including:
- a 3 day of onsite training to empower Bristols Departments to manage their own digitization;
- form conversion of complex processes, which is typically a labor-intensive process;
- setup of data analytics for more intuitive tracking and visualization of successes and failures; and
- strategy and prioritization to provide a blueprint of where to start the digitization process.
Takeaway: If you’re working with a third-party vendor to roll out your new tech, be sure they have a comprehensive support team to walk you through the process.
4. Phoenix, Arizona
The Greater Phoenix Smart Region, is focused on improving the quality of life for its citizens and businesses, through technology like testing Internet of Things (IoT) devices and working on projects related to smart cities, health care, water, and energy.
However, to gain momentum, the Greater Phoenix Smart Region must find ways to bridge the gap between innovative technology and the needs of communities and policy makers.
To ensure the technology they research is in demand by the greater population, The Greater Phoenix Smart Region developed a consortium to drive research and encourage action for the creation, advancement and adoption of smart city technology. The Greater Phoenix Smart Region partnered with 22 municipalities, academic institutions, business leaders and civic institutions to test, share best practices, procure, and implement.
Though specific data assigned to their success and forward movement is difficult to quantify, the lines of communication they’ve created to zero in on the how technology and digital information can help its constituents in addition to the private sectors is impressive, and necessary for a proper introduction of new technology.
Takeaway: Communication between all key stakeholders is critical to ensure the technology you roll out is needed, effective, and likely to have a high adoption rate.
5. Vermont Department of Information and Innovation (DII)
Roughly 240 vendor contracts are circulated for signatures each month in the Vermont Department of Information and Innovation (DII). To cut down on the amount of time it took to process documents each month, Vermont’s Chief Information Security Officer Kris Rowley decided to digitize the process.
Rowley worked diligently to ensure the software they selected would be easy to implement, and could be a long-term solution for their department. Rowley needed a solution that was designed with The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in mind, and that the third-party vendor they opted to work with placed a keen focus on security.
Proper vetting of their third-party vendor gave Rowley confidence in their new process. And, the roll out has been a success. According to Rowley, e-signatures have shortened their departments contract approval process, “By at least 75 percent. In some cases, contracts are finalized within two business days.”
Takeaway: Your technology is only as good as the security and compliance laws its build from. Be sure to check in with the company you work with to decrease any future hiccups that could occur due to poor framework.
When properly vetted, researched and implemented, new technology can streamline processes, improve community engagement, cut costs and increase productivity. However, when done incorrectly, or without a digital effort at all, governments risk losing time, money and reputation.