Digital City Services

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All over the world, high-performing governments are reinventing the way they provide services. They are going digital to save money while simultaneously increasing citizen satisfaction. More than any other city responsibility, digital city services embody happier for less.

The delivery of services represents the bulk of government spending (approximately 70% according to a 2009 study). Switching to digital delivery is already saving hundreds of millions of dollars for cities around the world. For instance, the City of Dubai estimates that its Smart Dubai phone app – which delivers services from more than five dozen agencies – will save more than $1 billion over a decade, while greatly improving citizen satisfaction.

But the benefits are not limited to saving money and pleasing citizens. As we'll explore, digital city services provide five key benefits:

  1. Increased citizen engagement
  2. Increased employee productivity
  3. Increased competitiveness
  4. Increased citizen satisfaction
  5. Reduced costs

Digital city services provide multiple benefits to citizens and to local government. They embody “happier for less” – using digital technologies to spend less while simultaneously improving service to citizens.

Digital services deliver city functions via web, smartphone and kiosks. Yet even today, many governments still think of the Internet and smartphones just as communications tools, not as better ways to provide services.

And even today, many governments still think of citizens as inhabitants, not as customers. We urge governments to think in terms of customers instead. For one thing, "citizens" is too limiting – cities also serve tourists, day workers, businesses, investors, city staff and many others. For another, a customer-centric approach will improve government results, just as it improves results in the private sector.

It's not a new idea that governments should be customer-centric. In practice, however, it can be difficult. First, city governments generally do not think of issuing permits, giving tickets or enforcing regulations as customer service, so staffers must first go through an "attitude adjustment." Second, some legacy systems cannot handle digital services, so the transition to digital delivery may involve building or buying new technology.

To help you make this essential transition, we'll first discuss the forces for and against, so you understand what’s powering this movement and what stands in the way. Next we’ll explain the benefits you can expect and list more than a dozen different kinds of services to consider. We'll finish up with best practices developed over the past 10 years. Along the way, we’ll reference success stories and lessons learned.

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