Public Engagement & the CIO

CIOs and IT seeing greater role in public engagement

Modern day government is adding democracy to their list of CIO priorities. In the 2020 State CIO Survey conducted by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), “Digital services and emerging technologies” took over as the #1 priority replacing cyber security which had held that spot for four years. While CIO/IT engagement with citizens have addressed many public policy areas, those exchanges were never as critical as in their new role that began in March 2020.

When COVID-19 struck, public officials retreated from conventional public engagement practices for the health and safety for themselves and for the members of their communities. Despite this, the imperative for local governments to remain open and continue dialog with residents and facilitate their participation in deliberations remained –particularly in times of crises.

Many local governments were unprepared technologically and procedurally for a seamless transition from conventional, in-person meetings to virtual ones. As a result, the circumstances propelled by the pandemic set the stage for an incredible transformation in the IT government space.

CIOs and their teams became the central government employees in public meetings. They were the architects and managers to build and at times run the platforms for public bodies and the public to virtually connect and collaborate.

The expanding CIO role is being recognized by government leaders who are realizing their value beyond traditional technologists and as key players and enablers in the future of government-citizen collaboration.

“We have also seen concrete evidence that technology is expected by the general public and important for communicating and engaging at scale.”

CIO quote from NASCIO survey

Leveraging Technology

Most CIOs and IT staff were challenged early on in the pandemic to cobble together multiple technologies to replicate and comply with traditional in-person meetings and requirements.

Today, many have found end-to-end solutions offering the best fit to bring more diversity, equity, inclusion, and meaning to the public engagement and decision making processes.

Learn more about the Public | Engagement Hub

Expanding the role and influence of CIOs and IT to ensure the government has a secure and manageable platform that improves both the quantity and quality of collaboration with residents offers both an opportunity and a challenge.

In this year’s NASCIO survey, “with responses being collected a full year after the pandemic began, one answer overwhelmingly stood out as the biggest driver for state governments’ need to digitize: ‘better online experience for citizens.’”

A survey from Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) echoed this at the community level. Asked which areas of government where software and technology adoption were made during the pandemic would become permanent, 83% of respondents identified “community engagement.”

What does this new role of “democracy enabler” mean for CIOs and for their departments? 

This larger role illustrates the importance of technology solutions to public engagement in governing today. The responsibility to contribute to successful engagement is spread across a broader spectrum of government employees, each contributing their talent to the process.

Public engagement is more than collecting input and feedback from residents. It is a central theme for public institutions to build and rebuild trust among constituents and the opportunity to collect more informed input from subject matter experts in their communities that lead to better decision making for the whole.

Expect to see an ongoing role for IT as local governments continue to utilize virtual methods along with conventional forms of public engagement to provide residents and public officials with a blended, or hybrid environment that takes advantage of benefits offered using both formats.

See how PublicInput is helping governments meet the changing public engagement expectations.

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