The role of government has evolved over time as citizen needs have changed. Today, government is being called on to do more with less. But with limited resources and a need to focus those resources on critical needs, the role of local government must evolve yet again.
In Governing’s November 2011 edition (p 20), there was an article entitled “Full-Service Government Comes to an End,” by Paul W. Taylor. The article focused on the many requests that come through for government employees to resolve. In particular, he noted that in Longmont, CO, “an internal analysis showed that up to 38% of the police departments calls for service did not need a uniformed officer – they needed a neighbor.”
This is only one example, but it raises a large question: Should government become an “information clearinghouse,” helping citizens find and act on information, as well as be a service provider? Should local government become a significant information and services hub, linking citizens to the most appropriate community resources for their needs?
For many years, government has been a “services provider.” But maybe that role needs to expand to “a services and information provider“? For some issues, precious government resources aren’t the best or most cost-effective solution. Other service providers, including neighbors, community groups, civic organizations, churches, non-profit organizations, etc., may be able to provide faster, better, and less expensive solutions.
We all have an interest in government cost-efficiency. When problems or challenges can be resolved faster and better, regardless of who is delivering the service, everyone benefits from a win-win situation.
This, of course, implies an expanded role for government websites – assuming that they can provide the most cost-effective channel for connecting the public to answers and resources. In addition to posting information on the website, subscription alerts, delivered by email, SMS text messages, RSS feeds, and other digital channels, can provide very specific, highly tailored, fast, and inexpensive options for fulfilling the “information clearinghouse” role. Note that such offerings provide information proactively, not relying solely on Web searches and website visits by the public. In fact, such alerts may increase website visits by providing links that make finding specific information more easy.
Is “service and information provider” a potential new role for government? Would you like to see your local government provide a way to connect with your neighbors and other local residents to help resolve concerns or problems? What do you think of the ideas in the Governing article mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Original post on Reach the Public.