Have you ever seen the demographic breakdown for individuals who received a government product or service and wondered why the most vulnerable populations did not utilize the service? When it comes to digital services, for example, the unfortunate answer is that many communities lack internet access. It is not enough to provide a resource online and hope that everyone can or will use it.
Although technology does an amazing job of connecting us, providing equitable services for all communities takes a lot more effort than pressing send on an email.
During a recent GovLoop training, government and industry experts discussed how to use technology to remove the barriers that prevent constituents from receiving equitable government service.
“We have the capability to give so much to so many. We just have to look at it from the right angle to make sure that the user side is capable of using what we’re able to do,” said Michael Cardaci, the CEO of FedHIVE.
Here are three tips to help agencies employ technology to equitably deliver resources.
1. Implement human-centered design
The best way to understand how to reach your constituents is to listen to their feedback. When agencies analyze the feedback from the people they serve, they develop a comprehensive understanding of the barriers different individuals face and they can tailor their services accordingly. For example, agencies may assume that most people prefer to register for their vaccines online. Meanwhile, constituent feedback could reveal that many individuals prefer to call and speak with a representative when scheduling an appointment.
“At King County, we actually do equity impact reviews because that allows us to understand for whatever program we are doing who is going to be utilizing the services,” said Tanya Hannah, Chief Information Officer for King County, Washington.
These reviews have helped King County understand the concerns of the community before a project or technology is implemented. Hannah explained how King County solicited feedback from seniors to improve a program that allowed them to apply for property tax exemptions. Although King County originally created a stylish web portal, those who tested the online feature explained that the technology did not interest them. They just wanted to quickly know about their eligibility without having to enter information into a system.
“It helps provide you with the perspective of the best way to implement tech,” Hannah said.
2. Tap into the data
“Data is crucial in how we provide services,” Hannah said. She suggested that agencies work with community-based organizations to access data that they might not possess. She explained that the services community-based organizations provide can supplement the work local government does. For example, community-based organizations aided local governments with serving food-insecure populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cheriene Floyd, the Director of Performance and Analytics for the Office of Equity and Inclusion for Miami-Dade County, Florida, explained how the pandemic helped her think critically about the type of data that agencies needed.
“One thing that became really important during the pandemic was the who and the where,” Floyd said. “We’re missing a lot of location data from folks.”
Floyd proposed that agencies partner with organizations that are already collecting data, such as electric scooter sharing companies, for example. From there, agencies can analyze their partner organization’s data to enhance services.
3. Revamp the old
When a policy or system does not effectively serve a community, question it.
“Policies aren’t meant to get in the way of good public service,” Floyd said. “If it doesn’t serve you, it must be questioned.”
Often, agencies adhere to outdated policies at the expense of providing the best customer experience. Prioritizing constituent needs is vital to making government delivery equitable.
Unbeknownst to many, tolerating old systems can sabotage modernization efforts because it wastes money.
“As you’re supporting these legacy systems, you’re spending resources and time to maintain this old technology that doesn’t integrate well with modernized infrastructures or technology,” said Sean Anderson, a Solutions Architect at Red Hat.
Anderson explains that automating processes and modernizing improve business efficiency. From there, agencies can utilize their time and resources to create systems that will alleviate modernization efforts.
Overall, both the experts and the audience agreed that equity and technology complement each other. Eighty-one percent of the audience agreed that the success of modernization relies on equity.
“Utilizing technologies in unison with good policies and processes will allow you to bring … equity to everyone,” said Anderson.
This online training was sponsored by: