Survey Explores How Citizens Want to Access Local Government Services

A new survey from the Center for Digital Government finds that while more than half of the people surveyed (56 percent) are satisfied with their ability to access local government services, there is still significant room for improvement.

The survey, which was conducted in collaboration with Rock Solid Technologies and Engaging Local Government Leaders, examined overall satisfaction with local government services, how citizens prefer to access local government, and why omnichannel access – including in-person, online, mobile, and other ways to access local government service – is important for engagement with all citizens

While the majority of citizens are satisfied with their ability to access local government services, an age divide emerged when people were asked if they can communicate with their local government “easily.” The study mapped results along generational lines: 55 percent of Boomers said they can communicate easily, along with 54 percent of the Silent and Greatest generations. But that share declined with age, as only 47 percent of Millenials said they can communicate easily with government, followed by 45 percent of Gen X-ers, and only 31 percent of Gen Z-ers.

“Local Government caters well towards Baby Boomers and Seniors,” the study explains. Local governments, the study says, have “had more than fifty years to adjust to their preferences, after all. But younger generations are more digital-savvy and even digital-native. This won’t be a surprise to many people, but many of the challenges in local government access relate to this disconnect.”

When looking towards Gen Z in specific, the generation is nearly two times as likely to feel their government isn’t tech-savvy. A quarter of Gen Z-ers do not feel they can communicate with their government in the way they’d prefer.

Another key component to how residents like to access local government services is the size of their locality. The greater the population, the less likely a citizen will want to access government services in person. According to the survey, only 38 percent of people in cities larger than three million population like to access services in person, versus 55 percent of people in cities under 25,000. Meaning, cities need to make an even stronger push to deliver services via website, texting, and mobile apps.

With a growing desire for digital services, the survey examined exactly how citizens want to access government services. When using smartphones or tablets, citizens want to be able to access job training, 311 services, pothole and street repair requests, information about recreation programs, and water and sewer emergencies. There was some overlap when it came to laptop users, with pothole and street repair requests and 311 services in the top five. Also on the list were accessing information about city and county government meetings, building permits, and utility billing.

“People have more devices than ever before, and local government needs to keep up. But traditional methods of accessing local government services aren’t going to disappear,” the report concluded. “Though younger generations are more interested in digital access, in-person visits and phone calls are here to stay. Different people have different preferences, and the number of options has increased. The more omnichannel your agencies can be, the better you can meet the needs of not just older citizens, but younger generations as well.”

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs