Artificial intelligence and automation are powerful upskilling tools that make it easier to learn, adopt and implement new technologies and processes. For example, robotic process automation uses software robots, or bots, to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks that are typically performed by humans interacting with digital systems. IT professionals can take advantage of low-code environments, enabling them to “drag and drop” functionality for all activities. The bots can be programmed to take care of tedious yet necessary tasks such as routing citizens’ applications to the correct queue expeditiously.
This simple scenario can yield powerful benefits for agencies and citizens. The IT professionals gain a new skill, customer service representatives save time by no longer having to route applications, and citizens’ information is processed more quickly.
2. Allocate Resources to Enhance Cybersecurity
States and municipalities work hard to earn citizens’ trust, but escalating cyberattacks against local governments threaten to undermine those efforts. Thanks to the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, state, local and territorial governments can access funds to purchase resources to bolster their cyberdefenses.
In addition to investing in upskilling and training employees on cybersecurity strategies and tactics, agencies should allocate a portion of their funds toward AI for better protection. AI can automate system monitoring, minimizing alert fatigue and enabling cybersecurity professionals to focus on the most pressing threats. It can also help prevent future threats by collecting, analyzing and learning from previous incidents — knowledge that can be used to automatically and effectively respond to incidents down the road.
Developers can use AI to build new cybersecurity features and applications quickly and cost-effectively. For instance, low-code- or no-code-enabled AI tools can create intelligent cybersecurity applications in minutes rather than hours or weeks. With the right supportive infrastructure, these applications can be built and deployed at scale so the entire agency maintains an up-to-date cybersecurity posture that protects citizens’ information.
3. Prioritize Citizen-Centric Design to Meet Residents’ Needs
It’s more difficult for public sector agencies to create applications that meet the needs of every user than it is for commercial enterprises that target only a single audience. It’s a big challenge to meet all constituents where they are, regardless of need or language, and provide each person with equitable access to services.
Because of this challenge, agencies must continue to make citizen-centric design a top priority in 2024. Developing applications that are intuitive and provide accurate information quickly, without the need to dial in to a call center, brings state and local agencies closer to citizens and engenders trust in government.
Creating user-centric applications involves understanding citizens’ expectations and investing in technology and processes to meet them. Agencies should begin by engaging citizens to discover what they like or dislike about their services, then use their opinions to inform new applications and features.
One of the top complaints they are likely to find is that citizens are frustrated when no two agency websites are the same. This makes them difficult to navigate and often requires users to enter their information multiple times. Embracing a “no wrong door” policy, where citizens get easy access to the information and services they need, no matter which website or application they are using, is recommended.
Adopting a standard operating environment is key to creating and implementing this policy. With a standardized infrastructure, agencies can combine disparate systems and data silos to provide users with consistency and user profiles that work across the agency, delivering a uniform and satisfying citizen experience.
One of the prevailing themes of NASCIO 2023 was the need to create a smooth citizen experience. Another was how to allocate IT funding. Hopefully, the three strategies outlined here will help agencies succeed with both.