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GovBytes: Spending Money To Train Citizens How To Use Your Site

Could this be the future?

Brian Heaton of Government Technology wrote Wednesday that at least one local government will soon be offering online training to educate citizens on how to use their new and improved website.

The Community Digital Forum, to be held Wednesday, June 29, will feature hands-on instruction on how to navigate the website and use features such as emergency alerts and mobile applications. CivicPlus, the firm that developed and designed the county’s updated Web presence, will also be present to provide technical details.

Roanoke County, Va., Residents to Get Trained on Public Website

My instinct is to be skeptical about a philosophy that says a government ought to put resources toward training individual constituents on how to use its website. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on creating a website that’s user friendly and intuitive (this way the site isn’t only of use to those individuals who are reached by the forum)?

Or could it be that expending effort on bringing the community you serve up to speed is the wave of the future? Maybe the argument could be made that this will benefit citizens in numerous ways, but teaching them to make better use of online resources in general. And perhaps, as the article hints at, showing people the vast array of information they can access on the local government’s website will lead to an increase in enthusiasm and citizen engagement.

Do you know of a city, state of Federal agency training citizens on how to use social engagement tools?

Should we be training them and, if so, how can we do it cost effectively?

“GovBytes” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with Government Technology. If you see great a story on Gov Tech and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected].


Related Tools & Resources

Resource: Citizen Engagement Survival Guide

Group: Citizen Engagement and Customer Service

Forum: With a Photo – What Does Citizen Engagement Look Like?

Forum: Who Is the Best at Citizen Engagement?

Blog: Why Non-Profits Need to Be Part of Citizen Engagement


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Rex Castle

Comment by Rex Castle just now

Delete Comment I believe what many fail to realize or perhaps acknowledge is a better word is that those “citizens” are not only customers, but shareholders. Government doesn’t only exist “for the people;” it exists because of the people. I’m not sure if designing better websites or offering training is the right solution, but shifting the paradigm to insure government is meeting the needs of its customers and shareholders would probably bring clarity to the argument as to whether to offer easy and global access to what is our information anyway and to people who work only because we choose to support our government, or whether to offer training, or whether to strive to achieve both. I know this much, from the email I received and the title “When Should You Ban Citizens From Your Social Media Sites” and that is government hasn’t the right to ban a “citizen” from the citizen’s right to engage through social media.
Carol Davison

To refer to people who don’t possess our technical competencies as bad apples is a customer service failure. I would imagine that a significant number of the people government serves are undereducated, elderly or disabled, and the majority of us will experience disability in our lifetime, just like your grandma. Think of the percentage of VA or Social Security customers that have visual and dexterity disabilities? Welfare recipients may lack computer and skills? Remember all the complaining the Fed community made about how long it took to cut and paste one ksas into USAJOBS? The solution is to design customer centric websites such as putting exact work addresses on USAJOBS so applicants can see if metro will take them there before they decide to apply saving them and HR unproductive work. We also need to coach our customers through electronic means of communication such as “Did you find the usajobs website ma’am? Good now list your zip code and how far you are willing to commute…” Designing customer centric websites frees us from unproductive busy work and teaching our customers to fish feeds them for a lifetime and frees us for systemic and strategic production.

Stephanie Slade

Hi Carol – Just to clarify, we would never refer to people who aren’t technically savvy as “bad apples.” The use of that phrase in today’s Daily Awesome was meant to refer to the second link about troublemakers and when/how to ban them from your site. I realize it could be misinterpreted and wanted to be sure to set the record straight… Sorry about that!


Bill Greeves

As the head techie for Roanoke County, perhaps I can shed some additional light specifically on the Forum and add some general comments.

The Forum we have planned for next week is not intended to train the general population on using our website. We recently redesigned our site (http://www.roanokecountyva.gov) and I am confident that the vast majority of the Internet-savvy public will have no trouble with the new design and features. However, we also have a large segment of our population that is not as technologically savvy and we do not want them to miss the party. We have several new services including a mobile site, text-based emergency notifications and social media integration that might not be intuitive to those who do not spend their days in front of a computer. If we can capture the interest and engage this audience just by holding some two-hour training sessions, then I am all for it! ; )

I think probably all of us who participate in GovLoop appreciate the value and potential that new advancements like social media and mobile apps bring to government. It allows us to engage and interact with new segments of our constituencies who may have previously been disengaged, apathetic or otherwise disinterested. So I am all for pushing the services envelope with these new tools. But I also am faced with the fact that we (at least here in Roanoke) also have a considerable portion of our population that relies on more traditional means to obtain information and services. So we have to always balance our resources and innovations to make sure that we are able to provide as much as possible to as many audiences as possible, with limited resources (both financial and personal). As the post mentions, I do believe that anything along these lines of promoting additional inclusion “will lead to an increase in enthusiasm and citizen engagement.”

I welcome any debate on the topic and any reviews/comments on our site itself. Thanks!


Rex Castle

Bill, I visited your site. It’s beautiful. The only thing I noticed in a very quick review (sorry…have a presentation practice to do) is that all the items in the drop downs appear to be alphabetized by the first word with the exception of under Residents (just “Calendar”), Visitors, and Business and then there are elements that are not alphabetized. Didn’t know if this was purposeful in design, but I expected alphabetized and got something else under these three and so that was what I noticed. GREAT site! Thanks for the effort and response.

Carol Davison

Stephanie, thank you so much for explaining that bad apples were troublemakers. I was surprised to see that sort of a reference on govloop.com where people behave professionally.