Generational diversity among our citizens has never been greater and we, as govies, are tasked with providing services to every one of them. When it comes to tech, one size doesn’t fit all and it’s our job to ensure we don’t exclude anyone.
Social generations are cohorts of people born in the same date range that share similar cultural experiences. The ones listed below are the ones we govies typically encounter and need to craft our solutions for. Think, however, of the diversity of these people and the type of world they grew up in.
- G.I Generation – born 1901 to 1924 – no TV, silent movies
- Silent Generation – born 1925 to 1942 – some TV, talkies coming out
- The Baby Boomers – born 1943 to 1960 – black and white TV, color movies
- Gen X – born 1960s to early 1980s – color TV in everyone’s home – early 3D movies (Jaws??)
- Millennials – born mid 1980s to early 2000s – TV in every room, CGI movies
- Generation Z – born after the early 2000s – who needs TV and movies? – it’s all on your phone!
Each one of these generations represents a segment of our community and it is our job to ensure that each person has equal access to our services. This is why a one size fits all solution does not work.
I’m a proud member of Generation X. When I went to school, we had a computer lab where we learned about word processing. An apple was exactly that – an apple, and I was the first in my class to have both a Walkman and later a Discman! With that being said I am great advocate for new technology. Being a govie, I see the ability for new and emerging technology to have a significant impact on the way we provide our services. Efficiencies, ease of use and accessibility are areas that cry out for streamlining and in this world of shrinking government, technology is where we turn to for an answer.
But when making our decisions, we cannot forget that there are significant segments of our population that either do not have access to technology, do not understand technology, or do not want technology in their lives. Having a strong understanding of your customer can help you provide the services you need to provide. From my experience, here are some of the things you need to think about when designing and implementing solutions in today’s diverse world.
- Know your demographics. Understanding who it is that will be using your services will help you design that service to be usable. It may be counterproductive to spend a large amount of time developing an app when your customer base is predominantly from the G.I. or Silent generations. In these cases, low tech could be the best approach.
- Have multiple solutions. One size does not fit all and trying to create a solution that does will often end up not meeting anyone’s needs. Try developing a suite of solutions that between them, meet the needs of the majority of your customer base. This could include paper application forms, online tools and an app – be flexible and be open to ideas.
- Field test solutions with a diverse group of people and don’t be afraid to ask your customers for help. This not only creates a sense of engagement and inclusion, it is also the way you can assess the usability of your solution. Include your mom, your grandfather and your sister’s16-year-oldd daughter! Each will give you a different perspective and help you refine your solutions for them.
- Take into consideration your audience when performing outreach about your solution. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the go-to platforms but don’t cover everyone. Don’t forget about the people who still visit your website, watch or attend your public meetings or even buy and read the local newspaper. The trend may be a move to social media, but don’t forget the people who don’t want to, or don’t know how to interact this way.
Provision of solutions and services that meet all of our citizens’ needs are going to evolve over time. Our communities become more diverse, technology is obsolete almost as soon as it is released and there are always new and shiny toys and tech that we would love to implement. But don’t forget that there are valuable members of our community who may need a different solution more tailored to their needs.
One size fits all isn’t always best – a collection of solutions will help you provide your service to a wider group.
Claire Jubb is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
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