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Demographics Drive Change in Local Government Communications
Municipal Websites are the Go-to Source for Digital Natives
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (May 31, 2017) The way citizens access and interact with local government is changing as digital natives put down roots in cities and towns across North America. With expectations for easy-to-use, mobile-friendly online information and services at an all-time high, the e-government innovators at Vision today shared stories from the front lines, where cities and counties are adapting to the changing expectations of tech-savvy citizens.
“Local government leaders across the country are paying close attention to the growing expectations of digital natives, whose increasing demands for online services and deeper levels of engagement are accelerating the drive to reassess content, design and function of local government websites,” said Ashley Fruechting, Vision’s senior director of marketing. “While social media is increasingly being leveraged to engage citizens, all links lead back to city and county websites as the go-to resource for detailed local information and services.”
As Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) Vice President Daniel Castra wrote in a recent article, “People’s primary interactions with government increasingly occur online, so it is essential that government websites perform optimally. They should not just be secure, but also fast, mobile-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities.”
Mike Ekey, the City of Raymore, Missouri’s communications director, agrees.
“You need a home base where all your information can live and be linked,” Ekey said. “Our community is in a reverse bell curve; on one side we have an older population more rooted in traditional media and on the opposite side we have young, tech-savvy families, which are our fastest-growing population. To serve both audiences, we’re getting smarter in design, publishing smaller chunks of information and more infographics that translate well to our website and social platforms. With any magazine or weekly newsletter, we try to push people to the website, which allows us to track interest and be more responsive.”
Other local gov communications and IT experts who also have embraced the digital culture agree there’s no turning back.
La Quinta, California, for example, has experienced an influx of young Gen-X and Millennial families over the last five years.
“We are a heavily digital city,” said Marcie Graham, La Quinta’s marketing & communications supervisor. “People prefer online services and communication, and we’ve responded to that. They now can apply for permits completely online. It’s faster, more convenient and environmentally friendly. We’re looking to go digital and paperless for all our processes moving forward.”
In San Marcos, California, one of the fastest growing cities in San Diego County, demographics have changed substantially over the last 10 years. “We’ve gone from cow town and chicken farms to a diverse, vibrant community with an added daytime population of nearly 50,000 college students and faculty,” said San Marcos Communications Officer Sarah MacDonald. “It’s important to know your audience and your community; it influences how you meet their needs. Our area is very tech savvy and residents, students and businesses expect their experience with government to mirror that in the private sector.”
San Marcos responded to these digital expectations with an upgraded responsive website designed to accommodate the heavy use of mobile devices. The new site offers online job applications, the ability to report concerns and an online map of major development projects that provides real-time updates on work being done throughout the area.
While a shift in a community’s demographic mix can drive a local government to adopt a digital culture, internal changes in city leadership can accelerate the process. When the City of Grand Forks, North Dakota’s new city manager and newly-elected council members agreed the city had wrung all the value from its former website, the communications department’s long-standing funding request for a new website was quickly granted.
“They told us they didn’t like the old site and asked what we needed to launch a new site by the end of the year,” said John Bernstrom, Grand Forks communication specialist. “It was great! I think it was a generational change; the newly elected council members were used to searching on the Internet and had significant expectations for our new site. It’s now become standard practice to track our digital efforts and deliver a report to the City Council every two weeks. They find a lot of value in knowing what residents are viewing on the site.”
For information about Vision’s transformative government website technology, please visit visioninternet.com/inforequest or call 888-263-8847.
Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Vision is a national leader in government website design, development and hosting with more than 700 government, non-profit and education clients in U.S. and Canadian communities with populations that range from less than 1,000 residents to more than 5 million. For more than 20 years, Vision has created cost-effective solutions that increase government efficiency, build transparency and promote interactive communications with citizens. The company’s powerful, easy-to-use subscription-based content management system, visionLive™, keeps local government websites relevant and effective; and the new visionPulse™ community engagement platform enables local governments to gather feedback on important issues. For the second year in a row, Vision has been named to Government Technology magazine’s GovTech 100, a listing of leading companies developing innovative or disruptive offerings to improve or transform government. The company also was named a top 10 company serving local government by Engaging Local Government Leaders in its 2016 ELGL Choice Awards.