Rethinking Citizen Engagement

Author: Martin Bradbury

Martin Bradbury
February 26, 2024

In recent years, it has been largely accepted that the adoption of Citizen Self Service, primarily through the deployment of web-based forms, would revolutionise efficiency within local government that will allow citizens to access local government services 24/7. However, reality has often fallen short of these promises. 

While web forms have become a staple in online service delivery, their effectiveness in delivering significant time savings and enhancing citizen engagement has been questionable. At Arcus Global, we believe it’s time to challenge the status quo and explore more innovative avenues for citizen interaction and service delivery.

Reimagining Web Forms: Quality Over Quantity

It’s true that web forms have simplified the process of submitting service demands and applications online. However, the majority of these forms suffer from poor design and implementation, resulting in frustration for both citizens and government officers. Many have become bogged down in old technology with lengthy forms, confusing layouts, and technical glitches that drive user frustration. Whilst we completely accept that some of the processes, especially licence applications are by their nature lengthy, the way they are presented and the user journey can be painful and be the difference betweens users opting to complete the process online, or close the laptop and submit a paper form instead, which we know takes considerable extra officer effort to process.

Arcus Global advocates a paradigm shift towards designing intuitive, user-friendly forms. This involves streamlining the form-filling process, implementing clear instructions, and leveraging responsive design to ensure compatibility across various devices be it desktop, tablet or mobile. By prioritising the user experience, our local authorities can enhance efficiency and encourage even greater citizen participation. The GDS has done some fantastic work in the area and I’m proud to say that we’ve largely adopted all of the GDS advice in our Digital Services Hub.

Beyond Web Forms: Embracing Citizen-Centric Platforms

While web forms have been the go-to solution for online engagement, it’s time to explore alternative platforms that resonate with modern citizens. We know the sands of social engagement are always shifting, and if we are to really drive engagement we need to look at alternative platforms such as social platforms such as Alexa Skills,  Facebook, X (formally Twitter) and WhatsApp integration, there are a myriad of options available for engaging citizens on the platforms they use daily. By meeting citizens where they are, local governments can foster deeper connections, drive usage and promote inclusivity.

Imagine the convenience of being able to report fly tipping or noise nuisance through a quick voice command or a simple WhatsApp message. Faced with this or a lengthy webform, which would you choose?  By embracing innovative communication channels, councils can empower citizens to actively participate in the process, and give them a real sense of pride and inclusivity that when they report, real action is taken.

The Role of AI in Citizen Engagement

Salesforce AI presents a wealth of opportunities for improving the user experience and streamlining the processing of service demands. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, councils can automate repetitive tasks, analyse citizen feedback, and personalise interactions based on individual preferences.

For instance, AI-powered forms can provide instant assistance to citizens, guiding them through complex processes and addressing common inquiries in real-time, saving officer time and reducing avoidable contact with call centres.  Additionally, predictive analytics can help our resource strapped local authorities anticipate service demands and allocate resources more efficiently.

At Arcus Global we’re committed to leveraging cutting-edge AI technologies to revolutionise citizen engagement and drive meaningful change within local government.

Conclusion

The era of relying solely on web forms for citizen engagement is coming to an end. It’s time for Local Government to embrace a more holistic approach that prioritises user experience, leverages modern communication channels, and harnesses the power of AI. By reimagining citizen engagement, we can build stronger communities, foster trust in government, and pave the way for a brighter future. Join us in shaping the next generation of citizen-centred services.