Going Digital: How Public-Private Partnerships Can Save the Day

As more of the world goes digital, governments are increasingly expected to offer services online. However, getting government websites up to speed isn’t easy. Users come to a government website with expectations established by the websites they visit most — private sector news, social media, and e-commerce sites that pour resources into user experience.

Small governments on tight budgets don’t have the resources to build their own high-end websites to meet these expectations. That’s where organizations who make streamlining government for the digital world their mission come in.

There’s no reason online government services can’t be made agile and user-friendly. Public-private partnerships can help make the process painless and affordable.

The Public Sector Status Quo: Paperwork.

Currently, the public sector day-to-day involves a lot of manual paperwork. With that comes all of the inconveniences we associate with government — the infamous “red tape.” This can include complex delivery methods like printing, faxing, scanning, mailing, and in-person delivery. It also means having to send additional forms to handle payment.

Governments spend huge amounts of money on materials and labor producing and processing paperwork manually. Paper and printer toner aren’t cheap, and organizing and filing paperwork is a hassle. Paperwork doesn’t just cost governments, either. Citizens spend their own hard-earned time and money filling out and submitting paperwork.

For government organizations who do have websites, many aren’t optimized for mobile. According to Google, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing. Every application that a municipality develops should be mobile-responsive — from their municipal website down to registration pages for recreation programs.

There are bigger costs that result from inaccessible websites. Many municipal websites aren’t ADA or 508 compliant. This effectively locks out citizens who rely on screen readers, and prevents people with other disabilities from easily interacting with services online. Being unable to access services online creates an undue burden on people with disabilities and other impairments. Websites that allow people to submit information easily — and make accomodations where they are needed most — make government more accessible for everyone.

How Public-Private Partnerships Can Save the Day

Sensing the need, private companies are developing solutions for the very problems the public sector is struggling with. Partnerships between public and private entities not only improve user experience for citizens, they allow governments to keep up with private sector advances. They also help free up personnel and resources to work on other meaningful projects.

Governments often solve digital problems on their own, therefore missing the opportunity to learn from each other and accelerate modernization. Private companies who help modernize government practices work with a diverse set of public organizations. They can apply lessons learned in previous projects to new clients, which helps them design government websites for efficiency and user experience.

Private organizations have the infrastructure to allow governments to scale their online operations with ease. Digital forms can be added to websites instantly from existing paperwork without affecting their content or legal standing. This gives public sector organizations the ability to expand their digital offerings as needed, without hiring developers to build custom solutions.

And, of course, there’s the look and feel. Most private sector companies employ larger design and development teams than governments can afford. By partnering with private organizations, governments are pooling their resources with other governments to access bigger, more diverse teams for their projects. This results in better visuals, better functionality, and better user experience than in-house IT personnel could produce on their own.

As more of the world goes online, governments should be ready to partner with the private sector to help achieve the best results for their citizens. The knowledge and creative freedom that the private sector offers governments is vital to developing a website that’s up to best practices for the digital world.

Jonathon Ende is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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