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Local government trends in 2020

Brett Barningham, Managing Director, State & Local Government reflects on what might be the challenges and priorities for local government in the year ahead.

Whether its citizens, the role of the public sector, new legislation or economic priorities, or technology, one thing is clear - the year 2020 will be one of continuing change and a challenge for local governments as they adapt to the new normal in service delivery and citizen expectations.

Over the past four years, Civica and UTS have worked together to produce a suite of research projects exploring the current and future role of ICT across public sectors and their communities.

We’ve created these reports to generate insight into the demands of local citizens and the role local government councils will play in supporting communities in coming years, including how service delivery is and should be evolving within councils. We felt it was important to provide further clarity in times when we see a few key shifts taking place, including:

  • The changing role of the citizen, who is becoming increasingly digitised and demanding
  • New government imperatives that impact on how local government can deliver on community needs
  • The emergence of new technologies that will impact how governments interact with citizens

We’ve explored emerging and evolving challenges and opportunities in the public sector and the role technology can play in addressing them. This includes examining topics ranging from co-design as an approach to service delivery, to digital transformation challenges, data management and privacy, and the value of libraries in the digital age. Along with our interactions with local government institutions themselves, this work has given Civica some fantastic insights into what’s likely to unfold in the sector in coming years.

While there are a multitude of dynamic changes underway across local government which we will continue to see play out in 2020, I wanted to highlight a few which we believe will be particularly prominent in the coming year.

New technologies will transform citizen experience

There’s a continued drive for efficiency in the local government sector, driven by the dueling forces of budget tightening and rising citizen expectations. Improving this experience will be a key priority area.

Community members themselves already see a number of areas where technology can improve their day-to-day and longer-term community experience. In particular, there’s strong agreement that technology would facilitate better two-way communication with councils and that technology will play a role in making local governments will more accountable to citizens.

We also anticipate that digital technology will provide vital civic infrastructure that will create spaces for community members and government to connect and co-design solutions to community challenges.

Cloud will continue to be adopted as one of the ways that local governments will look to improve customer experience, efficiency and reduce overheads. Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and machine learning will come to play an increasing role in how councils deliver services to citizens, with councils leveraging these to streamline existing processes, better allocate precious resources, and free up workers up from paperwork to spend more of their time on citizen-facing activities.

2020 vision

Business intelligence tools are one way that we expect councils to try to do more with less. In particular, query and reporting tools will be able to rapidly transform the way councils work by improving the organisation’s ability to quickly and effectively perform data analysis and gather insights.

With this enhanced ability to drill down into citizen and community-related information, we expect local government entities to more clearly be able to see what’s happening within their organisations and their community, as transparency increases from the front line to the C-suite.

Data driven

Our latest research finds that communities want to be more engaged and participate in local government via platforms including mobiles, computers and smart devices. Thanks to technology, we anticipate that councils can expect around 20 per cent more citizen engagement than they currently experience.

Fully realising the benefit of this trend depends on local councils being upfront about how they plan to securely use and share data sets to deliver better services to their communities. Councils are trusted, but this could be easily lost if not managed correctly.

Just over a quarter (28%) of respondents in our 2019 Community as a Service research report say they trust local councils to manage their data. Those aged 18-34 are most likely to express trust, and those aged 55-plus, least likely.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 2020. We hope that when it comes to public service delivery, local government organisations are already asking whether their organisation is prepared – or getting prepared – to meet evolving citizen expectations around service delivery and new technologies.

Community as a Service

This report reveals how changes in citizen expectation will drive a new wave in technology enabled community engagement.

Download report