Governments, technology and the future of the public sector
As the world slows down in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many sectors that are forced to remain operational. One, that has become increasingly important as the pandemic spreads, is local government. Public services are essential to help citizens access funds, health services, and information. And, as record numbers of Americans apply for assistance, access to government services has become increasingly important as they try to access these services and information.
Government agencies have long been criticized for long customer wait-times and outdated systems. While other industries turn to technology to solve this problem, local governments still rely heavily on people to power their call centers and offices. The technology that they do implement tends to be older and slow to scale. During the pandemic, unemployment offices were hit hard as non-essential businesses closed down, and with an economic downturn forecasted, this is expected to continue for quite some time. Health centers have also seen a spike in traffic, both in-person and online.
This has created an obvious need to manage government resources better, and to prepare proactively for crises. Growing demand has caused some services’ online portals to crash, resulting in access being assigned based on the resident’s birthday or last name. Call center queues are also reportedly taking days to navigate, with employees inundated with questions about the virus and public health services. Although existing methods fundamentally work, simple technological and related workflow changes could improve the customer service experience. Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) or other technology can help to create virtual call centers, freeing up the wait time for telephone services. AI can also be used to power virtual chat systems, which can quickly answer questions and refer citizens to the correct services.
There are also services that must still be done in-person, such as vehicle registration or construction permit application. Moving these services online or via phone is likely to be an impossible task, resulting in offices needing to stay open during the crisis.
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