State and local governments aim to use open data, website redesigns and improved analytics to increase the level of public engagement, according to a new survey from digital communications firm GovDelivery.
According to the survey, 51 percent of the respondents said their agencies were looking to expand their digital engagement with citizens. And 38 percent are looking to encourage more citizens to use their agencies’ online services.
The survey polled more than 600 U.S. government communicators from more than 350 different government organizations on their 2015 priorities. It laid out the top digital engagement trends for the year based on its findings and offered advice for agencies looking to pursue them.
One key digital priority revolves around making greater use of openly-available data public data. The report noted the potential for private sector developers to improve government services by building apps on open data, but found only 23 percent of the survey’s respondents publish open data and only 10 percent of the agencies that don’t publish open data currently say they plan to do so in 2015.
The study’s authors said that it’s not just about publishing the data for developers and citizens to access — it’s also important that the data is easy to access and understand.
“State and local government organizations must also work to build a community around their open data, promoting awareness and engagement,” the report said. “Data is only effective if people know it’s available and are using it.”
State and local governments are also emphasizing website improvements. Eighty-seven percent of the survey’s respondents said their organizations are working to prioritize improvements to websites to promote citizen engagement. A third of the respondents also reported their agencies were planning a site redesign in the coming year.
“The best way to drive traffic is to offer direct and repeated options for your audience to sign up to receive new web content,” the report said. “For the public sector, email is the most useful channel to engage more visitors, keep them informed and encourage them to use online resources and services.”
Sixty-six percent of the respondents said their organizations use analytics to track Web traffic, while 42 percent said their organizations have analytics in place on their social media and email channels. Another 22 percent of the respondents plan to start an advanced analytics platform in 2015, according to the report.
“You can apply data-driven insights to your communications strategy, tailoring messages and content to achieve a stronger impact,” the report said. But it can also be way to help make a stronger business case in the face of budgetary resource challenges at the state and local level. More than half of the respondents said budget limitations hinder their efforts to engage citizens and communicate effectively.
“Public sector organizations need to leverage partnerships and direct digital channels with higher” return on investment, the report said. “Public sector organizations should take advantage of the unique opportunity they have to cross-promote their services and offer citizens relevant information from a variety of partners that meet their audience’s preferences and interests.”
The report also said a focus on shared services could help cut costs and increase efficiency for state and local governments in some cases.
“Organizations that share similar services, close physical locations or offer information on similar topics, such as healthcare, tax forms or elections, can connect to create an essential network of government expertise and effectively drive more visibility and outreach,” the report said.