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In the 2016 movie Zootopia, sloths make up the entire staff at the DMV. While comical, the film plays into a perception that government processes are slow and time-consuming.

However, government agencies must recognize that residents today are tech savvy and used to doing nearly everything online. In fact, a recent report found that since the start of 2020, 76 percent of consumers say their expectations for digital experiences have increased. Tech giants, like Apple, built their own platforms, integrating app services into the daily lives of their users. Governments would need to build or adopt their own digital platforms for the same outcome.

Modern IT solutions can empower government agencies to meet these rising expectations and transform how they deliver services to our communities. However, IT talent shortages, staffing issues, and economic volatility challenge agencies’ capabilities to do this. Agencies should make strategic IT tech investments and capitalize on the current once-in-a-lifetime federal funding opportunity available with the American Rescue Plan to deliver better experiences for residents and staff. Here’s how.

Adopt a Platform Approach to Government Technology

“Government as a Platform” (GaaP), a term coined more than a decade ago, describes a digital government network that fully serves its residents at any time and anywhere. With current technological advancements, this is no longer just an idea, but a reality that brings several benefits.
A unified platform approach gives agency staff a holistic view of their jurisdiction and optimizes day-to-day operations, freeing up time to work on other essential tasks. Agency staff can accomplish more without needing to search for additional personnel. Communities gain new insights, improve data connections, find efficiencies, and deliver a digital experience while making services more accessible to residents.

Governments can also use a platform to bring together services and implement solutions that create a seamless experience for staff and residents. For example, integrating an online payment system allows residents to make payments from anywhere and streamlines workflows for staff. State and local governments can customize a platform to match specialized licensing, permitting, and code enforcement.

By centralizing all services and creating a single user experience that increases engagement, a unified platform makes it easier and faster for governments to deliver vital services.

Utilize Once-in-a-Lifetime Federal Funds

Investments in IT infrastructure transform and build stronger communities – but accelerating a community’s digital transformation may require a significant financial investment. However, agencies can now utilize once-in-a-lifetime federal funds, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The 2021 ARP allocated $350 billion to state and local governments to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies should leverage federal funding to digitally transform their community and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – but a significant amount of these dollars risk being left on the table.

ARP funds can help agencies create more effective and modern services, thus facilitating closer relationships with their residents. This is also a priority of the Biden Administration which issued an executive order to improve the customer experience and prioritize IT improvements. State and local governments can easily apply for ARP funds after registering or renewing their System of Award Management registration. Data projects or IT investment plans qualify under the widest funding category, “Revenue Replacement: Provision of Government Services.” In addition, funds can be used to overcome economic barriers and implement solutions to overcome the IT talent shortage.

To fully benefit from ARP funding, state and local governments need to book their projects by December 31, 2024. With the planning that is required to do this, agencies should jump on these funds now. It is up to each agency to apply for funding, plan and enact their project.

Utilize New, Creative Offerings to Complement Staff

While many government agencies want to move to digital solutions, they are challenged by the current IT talent shortage. A recent Gartner survey found that the lack of talent is the biggest barrier preventing the adoption of new tech, which means residents’ expectations may be going unmet.

Fortunately, there are several creative options to increase government IT staff capacity. Agencies can utilize service offerings, such as Accela’s Management Application Services offering, to supplement IT staff and extend bandwidth. This also frees up agency leaders to focus on transformative initiatives instead of manual administrative duties. By finding alternate ways to increase staff capacity, agencies achieve the people power needed to propel their communities forward.

Governments face more challenges than ever – but there are more opportunities now to invest in digital solutions. Now is the time to seize the moment and use tech to accelerate governments forward together.

This article was published in Government Technology Insider and can be found here.

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