Citizen Engagement Digital Government Digital Policy

Survey Reveals Need for Citizen Focused Approach

A survey of senior-level US government employees has revealed mixed results in the implementation of digital tools and services.

The Government Business Council released last month the results of a survey of senior-level Federal government employees about their perceptions, attitudes, and experiences regarding digital tools and service delivery.

The study, underwritten by Accenture, surveyed 400 GS/GM-11 and above and Senior Executive Service members from across 30 civilian and federal agencies. 40% of the respondents hold program/project management or technical/scientific positions. The remaining were spread across multiple job functions.

Some key findings:

Use of Digital Tools and Services

  • Federal agencies could do better at fostering a collaborative work culture. Only 38% of respondents considered their agency’s culture as being collaborative or very collaborative.
  • Nearly 90% of the participants use one or more digital collaboration tools (e.g., CRM systems, tools like SharePoint, instant messaging). 40% use at least three tools.
  • Results were mixed when asked to rate their agency’s use of collaboration tools. 40% rated their agency’s use of tools as Good or Excellent. About 30% deemed it Satisfactory and the remaining 30% rated it Poor or Unsatisfactory. Use of digital service delivery and engagement tools was rated slightly better.
  • Three out of four participants consider the results from using digital tools or services to be positive. The most often mentioned benefits listed were:
    • Improved employee efficiency or productivity (49%)
    • Easier for customers to receive service (48%)
    • Saved customers time (37%)
    • Improved accuracy of our data (36%)
    • Cost savings (33%)

Barriers to Implementation

  • Not surprising, budget constraints (63%) and security/privacy concerns (57%) were listed as the major barriers to digital tools and services.
  • Interestingly enough, cultural resistance was listed as a major barrier by 42% of the respondents.
  • Only 22% of participants felt their agency is allocating an appropriate level of funding for digital tools and services.
  • Views on the cost-effectiveness of digital tools were divergent. 57% of the respondents felt the tools were somewhat or very cost effective. 12% felt they were not and 31% simply didn’t know.

It is encouraging that three quarters of the participants view the results of digital tools and services as positive and consider these tools better utilized for customer/employee engagement and service delivery than tools used for collaboration. However, it is clear from the mixed results that their value and utility are far from being viewed as a resounding success.

It is interesting that improving citizen engagement was not listed or viewed as a benefit. I view this as a reflection of the fact that culturally, at the Federal government level, the citizen is still viewed as a consumer of services. It is not until this perception changes that we will see expansive initiatives at the Federal level that promote/enable citizen participation in government. State and local governments are leading the charge in this regard, partly because the scale of the effort and cost of the investment are much smaller. These efforts combined with grassroots movements and rising citizens’ expectations will eventually drive change into the broader central government.