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Transparency through technology: Scalable, cost-effective and achievable now

Run a transparent government

If local governments are not investing in technology that makes data more available to the public, they are not investing in transparency. It’s really that simple. 

In today’s highly connected world, transparency has become synonymous with digital access to information. The right digital tools can make transparency achievable, scalable and cost-effective while making local government data accessible to the residents of major cities like Chicago and much smaller communities such as Williamsville, New York. Chicago and Williamsville are just two U.S. cities that have implemented open data policies, a process that goes beyond simply publishing government data online and offers the public ongoing access to specific types of information in formats that are easy to use.

Transparency can benefit governments and their communities in many important ways, from enabling government leaders to more accurately gauge community needs, to driving economic growth by providing communities with information that could inspire the creation of new products and businesses.

Greater transparency can also help local governments run leaner and “do more with less” by providing more information to more people, with less effort and fewer costs. According to the Sunlight Foundation, cities such as Chicago and New York City are using open data to increase interdepartmental cooperation and government efficiency. Transparency can also lead to changes that result in better community services. The Los Angeles Times, for example, used municipal data to map emergency response times in Los Angeles neighborhoods, which sparked a call for local improvements.

How Technology Can Help

Technology is the key to greater transparency. A new generation of technology solutions, which are low-cost, easy-to-use and offer a high return on investment, are enabling a growing number of local governments of all sizes to become more transparent and engage more directly with their communities. Technology that automates manual processes makes transparency scalable. Without these tools, publishing government information online becomes unnecessarily challenging and difficult to manage.

With an automated meeting and records management solution, local governments can create paperless systems that eliminate time-consuming manual processes while connecting the public to data online. Digital records and advanced search tools make it easy for anyone to locate the exact information they need, which reduces the number of public requests for information and lessens demands on staff.

Another innovation that benefits local governments is technology that streams government data online. By linking to the government website and automatically refreshing information as staff members work throughout the day, data streaming can provide the public with current information while making transparency less labor-intensive and eliminating the cost of hiring extra staff to post frequent updates.

By making strategic investments in these and other technology solutions, local governments can achieve greater transparency, build a trust-based relationship with the citizens they serve, ensure more efficient delivery of services, and contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Learn four ways local governments can use technology for cost-effective transparency - follow this link.  

Check out our webinar Bringing Information to the People: Transparency Tips for Small Local Government

Comments

Neil Britto

As government agencies are increasingly asked to work in partnership with the business and non-profit sector to provide services to their communities, transparency becomes essential to productive relationships that are founded in trust. Making government data from various city agencies digitally available to the public contributes to transparency along with the additional benefits of streamlining processes, more easily identifying the population needing service, and more efficiently delivering that service. Two tactics from The Intersector Project Toolkit speak to these benefits of digital connection - Commit to Information Sharing and Build a Common Fact Base. Commit to Information Sharing refers to the requirement that partners share data relevant to the collaboration’s efforts, and it’s imperative because openly sharing information, including disclosing sensitive facts, gives collaboration partners a more comprehensive understanding of the issue and builds trust among partners and in the collaborative process. Build a Common Fact Base entails creating consensus among collaboration partners as to what facts relating to the issue are most relevant, and it’s important because joint recognition of what data is relevant to the collaboration allows participants to determine how best to proceed.

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