Apr 29 2022

Local Governments Can Combine Technology and Values to Effect Change

Officials also must question if they are applying the right solutions at the right time.

For nearly two years, technology has empowered a radical transformation in the business of local government. With the pandemic, cities and counties were forced to rethink everything from public meetings and citizen engagement to remote work. In transforming operations, many leaders realized that the approaches taken before COVID-19 were not necessarily the best.

This transformation, born of necessity — the need to innovate on a nearly daily basis and reimagine even the most basic functions of local government — can lead to a new normal. We can leverage the cultural shift that happened during the pandemic to create a transformational mindset where we continuously ask ourselves, what is the brightest possible future we can pursue for our communities? And how is technology, guided by our core values, a tool to achieve those goals?

Exploring the Community Impact of Digital Transformation

It is our responsibility as leaders to create an environment where all stakeholders understand the benefits of digital transformation and, most important, how it aligns with the community’s fundamental mission, vision and values. The past two years have taught us that great ideas, as well as challenges to the status quo, can come from anywhere in the organization. Successful deployment of new technologies and processes requires engagement at every level.

In a remote work environment, this becomes even more important, requiring encounters that result in greater productivity and more timely outcomes, including one-on-one meetings, multiple training sessions and continuous feedback to improve and refine the process.

RELATED: How local governments can elevate DEI principles in procurement.

The Importance of Mindful Technology Solution Adoption

The temptation in responding to the blistering pace of change is to adopt technology solutions that may not answer a need in our communities or a problem we are trying to solve. In some cases, if we let the technology get ahead of our values of equity, inclusion, integrity and transparency, we can undermine our best intentions.

Without a properly trained analyst, for example, we might collect terabytes of citizens’ data that is left in storage, unused and vulnerable to compromise. In the name of productivity, we may install a communication system that instead creates greater inefficiencies and frustrations in the workplace with always-on channels and unclear directions. We might rely so heavily on imperfect algorithms for evaluating job applicants that ideal candidates are screened out before ever speaking to an actual recruiter.

EXPLORE: The necessary role of collaboration and team building in the workplace.

Balancing Organizational Outcomes with Community Goals

As leaders, we have the responsibility not only to press the organization forward to achieve higher levels of performance, but also to take a deliberate pause and make certain that these advances are driven by the desire to improve the quality of life in our communities; that we are mindful of the relationship between technology and the irreplaceable human characteristics of empathy and creativity. Balancing this relationship best serves and uplifts communities.

Before aggressively turning our digital transformation experiences born of necessity into operating strategies for the future, we need to take a breath. Consider all that technology can do for us, its many benefits and its negative ramifications as well. When our technology innovations are well planned, mission- and values-driven, and thoughtfully deployed, they have the power to enhance and transform the lives of every resident in every community.


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