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Should we encourage governments to proactively communicate with citizens?

If you live in Australia, and home is either NSW or Victoria, you’re probably sick of seeing political messages, courtesy of state and federal elections within months of each other. Political advertising around elections is not new, and as a resident, it’s difficult to avoid the ongoing barrage.

Once election season is over, we’ll likely not be actively engaged by government until the campaign bus rolls around again. While that may seem like a blessing right now, there are many government programs and initiatives that go unnoticed by the citizens they are designed to assist.

From transactional to proactive and personalised

As it stands, government typically requires citizens to proactively seek-out information and self-serve. However, thanks to disrupted industries like the retail sector, as consumers we’ve become accustomed to being fed information rather than seeking it. Personalised, proactive, data-driven, online experiences are now so normal as to be expected.

Increasingly, government agencies are interacting with citizens who are looking for experiences similar to those they enjoy with consumer brands. Many of the agencies I’ve spoken with are wrestling with the challenge of how they can use existing data to provide these personalised experiences, without breaching trust and an individual’s right to privacy.

Given these concerns, is proactive communication from government something we should encourage as a community?  How would it benefit us and what could it look like?

Communicating at scale

If we take the recent rail power-outage incident in Sydney as an example, could proactive communication have minimised the frustration and cost of this unexpected event? Imagine how much better your experience that day would have been had you received an SMS prior to leaving home; informing you of the situation, suggesting alternatives and giving you the ability to plan around delays.

Similarly, motorists who have been stung with on-the-spot fines for not paying their vehicle registration on time, would probably welcome  an automated reminder service wholeheartedly.

The opportunity for proactive communication extends far beyond just managing incidents like those mentioned above. Modern technology presents agencies with the opportunity to proactively engage and educate citizens, providing a better experience at scale, without a significant increase in resources.

A role for automation

The same technology used by commercial marketers to automate communications could be used by government departments to quickly and cost-effectively identify the citizens who would benefit most from each new initiative and communicate directly with them.

Conversely, citizens would benefit from proactive and timely updates that make their interactions with government easier and more convenient, helping them to navigate the agency hierarchy and get things done.

Proactive communications add significant value to citizens

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have developed roadmaps and committed significant resources to building seamless, personalised, digital services for citizens to self-serve.

Extending this roadmap to include proactive, automated communication strategies with safeguards to protect privacy, would improve the citizen experience without a significant increase in resources, while building engagement and trust.

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If you'd like to know more about automating citizen communications, we'd love to hear from you.

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