Shaping our Digital Future Part IV: Develop 21st Century Government and Public Works Programs

Nine ideas for things we need to do now to ensure that our digital future delivers on its promises of innovation, equity, and a better quality of life for everyone. 

It’s not too late to fix the mistakes of the past and create a firm foundation for the years ahead, but our prosperity and well-being at every level of American society will depend on confronting these challenges and taking meaningful action.

Newfangled technology alone will not guarantee community-wide access and better service delivery, but the right technology can greatly improve our communities and government interactions. That means tech that broadens access, increases flexibility, helps prepare for the unexpected, and conserves our shared resources. The data we collect from millions of users of municipal websites and services across the country suggests that we still have a lot of work to do to create digital government experiences that live up to their 21st-century potential. We need to implement smart innovations instead of settling for the status quo.

Here’s what we need to do:

  1. Re-envision the need for centralized government services. By deploying government employees into communities with mobile technology, we can make government transactions easier for everyone and close the service gap in high-need communities.
  2. De-commission under-used city and county government centers. The cost savings from streamlined physical operations can fund increased community outreach and technical innovation.
  3. Incentivize working from home for government employees. With today’s technologies, the number of positions that require on-site work is continually shrinking and external factors are creating an increasing need for flexibility. It’s time for government to catch up with the private sector when it comes to creating an efficient and adaptable workforce.
  4. Change the mandate of the FCC to better support innovation and broaden access. Expand its scope to empower the use of technology in all communities, closing access gaps. Add to its mandate the oversight of communications privacy to ensure centralized, high-level regulation.
  5. Municipal governments should invest in diverse modes of public transit, including e-bikes, e-scooters, and other smart city infrastructure. By thinking beyond buses and trains, cities will be better equipped to grow and serve an evolving population.
  6. Put existing internet-connected sensors to greater use. These sensors are already present in countless devices and across our infrastructure, but the information they provide isn’t fully leveraged.
  7. Subsidize the sale of smart sensors to local governments to collect and measure additional data. Pavement sensors, for example, can help manage usage, traffic flow, and life cycle of roadways.
  8. Allowing for national security concerns, put military sensors and analytics equipment to use to revolutionize our understanding of materials management. Existing military technologies could help us reinvent public sector supply chains and service provision.
  9. Extend the longevity of the power grid and generate savings through data readily digestible by IoT appliances in homes and businesses. Existing sensors in devices already in use could help us reduce the strain on our electricity supply and glean lessons for future power generation and supply strategies.