Australians want private-sector service from local governments
A recent study reveals that local governments should employ digital-driven insights and cloud-enabled services to meet community expectations relating to data security, communication and environmental sustainability. In the survey of more than 1000 Australians, 95% said that new technologies such as roads and infrastructure monitoring, environmental and waste management, and improved digital and social engagement could transform how they access and use public services.
The ‘Community as a Service’ study — undertaken by Civica and the Institute for Public Policy and Governance (IPPG) at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) — reveals that citizens expect to increase their interactions with their local council over the next five years and that digital technologies should facilitate the service they receive.
“Citizens expect their local council to deliver the same kind of convenient experiences they get from the private sector,” said Civica ANZ Executive Director Ben Cowling. “They want easy access to council information and on-demand services via their smart devices.
“We’re going to see citizens get more involved in the decisions made for their local communities. Local councils need to take advantage of cloud-based technologies that make it easier for citizens to engage and facilitate collaborative dialogue.
“This is the vision of local government of the future — providing community as a service.”
According to the research, citizens want to engage with councils on their own terms, with 79% expecting to interact with their council via self-service technologies in the next five years. The most important service, identified by 73% of respondents, is the ability to easily report issues to their local council online or with a smartphone.
Social media is likely to increase as a form of engagement — 47% of respondents agreed they will primarily use social media to connect with their local council in the future. When they do engage with councils, citizens want a quick response, with 60% expecting an instant turnaround on their queries.
Despite communities expecting their local council to employ new technologies to improve community services, only 28% completely trust their councils to manage data.
“Although the use of data presents new opportunities to deliver better experiences, local councils need to overcome current citizen perceptions about their ability to manage data,” Cowling said.
“Cloud-based platforms provide a secure way to manage large volumes of data, efficiently analyse it to better understand the issues facing local communities and deliver solutions. We’re developing cloud-based solutions that enable local councils to deliver services that meet their citizens’ expectations while managing their data securely,” he said.
IPPG’s lead researcher Sophi Bruce said this year’s findings show that personal data use and data security have become hot topics.
“An increase in mobile connections was not previously thought to increase risk and privacy, possibly due to a lack of awareness about smart and connected devices,” she said.
“The findings from this year’s research align with broader trends we’re seeing around data use. They suggest that citizens want to see greater transparency about how their data will be used and secured.”
Environmental sustainability is a high priority among Australian communities, with 54% of citizens identifying waste management and environmental sustainability as a key area in which they want technology to be used by local governments. Nearly half (48%) of citizens believe that new technologies are critical to supporting environmental initiatives.
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