May 18 2022

Report: Governments Must Make Digital Services More Accessible

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic point agencies toward the future.

As the world transitions out of the pandemic phase, government agencies have become more focused on building resiliency for future crises, growing connectivity and making services more equitable and inclusive for all.

That’s according to the “Government Trends 2022” report from the Center for Government Insights at Deloitte, which builds on previous research showing how governments around the world responded to the COVID-19 crisis. Now, many government entities are focused on moving forward — not only in a world with COVID-19 but other crises as well.

LEARN ABOUT: How Texas is transforming the way residents interact with state government.

“As I talk to state and local officials, the big question is always, ‘How do we continue this movement?’” says Bill Eggers, the Deloitte center’s executive director. “We saw the biggest movement toward the cloud, digital, virtual work and remote telehealth. It accelerated by years, if not even decades, in some of those areas. How do we continue that acceleration to make sure we don’t go back to the old way of working?”

He says governments have made big strides in areas such as data sharing and expanding digital access to government services for underserved populations. 

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Data Sharing Increasingly Vital to Boosting Citizen Services

Take the Texas Homeless Data Sharing Network, which allows local governments, service providers, faith communities and others to access housing and resources across the geographical borders of homeless response systems, according to its website. It also makes it possible to analyze statewide homelessness data in real time.

Governments are working to bridge the digital divide “with more availability, affordability and adoption of broadband,” and have also redesigned digital platforms, ecosystems and infrastructure to reduce sludge, Eggers says. 

EXPLORE: How leaders are sharing data and breaking down data silos to improve services.

For example, an agency might offer a form for food stamps, which might be 50 pages. How does that agency simplify the form dramatically to give people much easier access to it? “That’s really looking at the user experience and simplicity, bringing human-centric design,” Eggers says.

COVID-19 isn’t the only crisis governments are contending with. Climate change — as well as shifts in technology, economic disruption and supply chain issues — is another big area of focus for governments looking to build greater resilience.

“Climate change is increasingly shaping agency missions at all levels — central, regional and local,” the report notes. “Government entities must understand and embrace how climate change affects their missions — and act in a way that both aligns and advances their objectives.”

Climate Change Motivates Agencies to Assess Community Resilience

In the United States, the Department of Defense has recently acknowledged climate change as a threat to national security and has released a climate adaption plan to future-proof military bases, according to the report. 

The state of California has also prioritized this, putting more than $37 billion toward protecting its population from the costs and impacts of climate change. In April, state leaders released the Extreme Heat Action Plan, “a critical part of California’s commitment to strengthening community resilience that will guide partnerships and investments in equitable solutions to protect all Californians,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a news release.

READ MORE: How municipal operators navigated remote work to effectively assist citizens virtually.

“A big piece that cuts across a lot of these trends is that we’re increasingly living in a boundaryless world, where no single government agency can solve any of these problems,” says Eggers. “Increasingly, technology is going to play a really key role in connecting not only across levels of government but across the private sector.”

He says that moving forward, governments will be required to do more bridge building across different sectors, figuring out how to bring many players together to solve the most pressing problems.

Dmitry Belyaev/Getty Images

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