American citizens are more connected than ever before. It’s why 70% of people will have smartphones by 2020, and why 97% of IT teams across the country are currently developing apps for customers, partners, and employees. So as an organization whose job it is to serve the American people, the US government should be among the first to jump at the chance to provide their citizens with digital technology options that can make it easier to become engaged and have greater access to government services.
Connectivity is, after all, what the people want: more than half of Americans (55%) would be open to their taxpayer money going towards research for forward-looking technologies for their cities, assuming it is for services they would find helpful. Despite this, when asked, citizens were unaware of any such services currently being provided by their local governments. Less than half said that they were aware of their local government offering any kind of government app or online portal for services such as information on garbage pickups (41%) paying for parking tickets (37%), or information on street cleaning (27%).
In fact, of all respondents, 35% said they were aware of none of these, nor other related services currently being offered.
At the same time, government employees have a similar desire for improved connectivity in their jobs. In a Salesforce Government Business Council survey, efficiency/productivity tactics and IT training/development were identified as the two areas government employees would most like to see their employers prioritize.
With citizens and employees all showing obvious interest, why have agencies been slow in adopting new mobile technologies? The main issue is that application development can be both expensive and time consuming. In fact, government employees identify budget constraints as the chief barrier to adoption.
When a business wants to develop its own apps, it either has to outsource or hire a developer. They must then work and rework the app until they get it right, maintain and update it after it is finished, offer support when there are problems, and so on. They also face challenges that come with hosting the app, including the costs of maintaining infrastructure and keeping it secure. Government agencies are no different.
But while for many businesses, expenses like these might quickly pay for themselves. Unfortunately, for a government agency, where resources are more limited and spending must be kept to a minimum, users need a more efficient solution — which is why many agencies end up offering nothing at all. Simply put, restricting app development has traditionally been a more cost-effective solution.
However, things are changing. In both the private business sector and in government there has been a growth in the use of platform as a service, or PaaS, which involves using cloud technology to create apps quickly without all of the regular development holdups. Of the world’s Fortune 50 companies, 48 are either already using or plan to use cloud services. Using these cloud platforms, agencies can develop apps much more easily, more quickly, and in a substantially more cost-effective manner.