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Citizen Engagement, Accessibility and Cybersecurity Top List of Local Government Priorities in 2018
Websites Emerge as Central Hub of Local Gov Communications in Vision’s 4th Annual “What’s Next” Survey
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (February 12, 2018) Expanding citizen engagement, improving web accessibility and minimizing cybersecurity risks topped the list of 2018 priorities for local government leaders in the fourth annual “What’s Next in Digital Communications for Local Government” survey, released today by the government website and software experts at Vision.
Nearly 370 municipal and county government officials serving communities with populations of less than 1,000 to more than 500,000, participated in the December 2017 online survey, which assessed the current state of digital communications in local government and projected future trends. You can download a copy of the survey here.
Topping the list of priorities for 2018 is citizen engagement, with two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents planning to invest in technology to expand their efforts in this area. Moreover, half of the local government agencies surveyed plan to invest in social media tools to do so.
“At a time when social media consumption is at an all-time high, it’s not surprising that local government leaders are realizing the impact digital engagement can have in creating positive relationships with citizens and improving the customer experience,” said David Nachman, CEO of Vision. “Over the four years of our ‘What’s Next’ surveys, we’ve seen social media rise from third to first place among rankings of the most effective communications channels for local government.”
Web accessibility came in second among the top priorities for 2018, cited by 53 percent of survey participants. Ten percent of the public officials surveyed said their agency websites do not meet current standards for digital accessibility, while 66 percent said their website was only “somewhat in compliance.”
Cybersecurity also was top of mind for this year’s survey respondents, coming in third among the most frequently mentioned priorities at 41 percent. When asked to rank external forces that will have the most significant impact on local agency communications this year, cybersecurity threats topped the list of concerns for the leaders questioned.
Biggest Challenges for 2018
Community engagement is both a priority and a challenge for local government leaders this year. Nearly half (49%) cited “limited community engagement” as the biggest challenge for their websites in 2018, followed by “difficult to navigate” (41%) and “website does not meet accessibility standards” (29%).
“It’s clear that local agencies are well aware of the rising expectations of their increasingly digital and mobile citizens who now demand the same level of accessibility, security and efficiency they enjoy in the private sector,” Nachman said. “Netflix, Amazon and Uber have set a high bar for digital interaction that government budgets often find hard to reach.”
Most Effective Channels of Local Gov Communications
Local agencies recognize the key role their websites play in meeting the digital demands of diverse populations, with nearly 91 percent of respondents rating their website as “very important” or “extremely important” to their overall communications and engagement strategies – a response that has remained above 90 percent in each of the past four years.
When asked how easy it is for community members to find information on their websites, however, less than 9 percent of survey respondents said it was “extremely easy.” The remainder of respondents said their websites had room for improvement in the area of “findability” of web content.
“The good news is more than half of the local government leaders we surveyed plan to invest time and money in updating and improving their websites in 2018,” Nachman said. “We’ve also seen responsive design fall lower on the list of current website issues, which indicates that many more local government websites are now mobile-ready.”
Websites ranked second, behind social media, as the most highly effective channel of communications available to government agencies. Email and text messaging followed in third and fourth place. Blogs ranked last as an effective tool for local government, with nearly 60 percent rating blogs as “not effective.”
Looking ahead five years, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of survey respondents see the importance of social media increasing, while those that believe websites will be most effective nearly doubled to 66 percent from 36 percent.
“Overall, this year’s survey underscores local government leaders’ commitment to better serve their communities by delivering superior digital experiences,” Nachman added. “They will do this by leveraging social media, video, mobile messaging and other tools to communicate with citizens in a way that is more engaging, interactive and personalized than ever before.”
For more information about Vision’s transformative technology, or to request a free website review and consultation, please call 888-263-8847 or visit info.visioninternet.com/free-consultation.
Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Vision is a national leader in government website design, development and hosting with more than 800 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.