Customers are key to good government technology, panel says

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It’s time for agencies to cultivate existing technology to better citizens’ experience with government, according to a panel at the AGA National Leadership Training in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 12.

Leaders in social government detailed ways government officials can use technology and social media to serve their citizen base better and make their agency more efficient.

“We want users to go into an site that is customer-focused and find something that resonates with them,” said Lisa Schlosser, deputy administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget.

To be more efficient in IT, government needs to move away from monolithic big-build projects and focus on build-and-deliver increments to be more efficient, according to Schlosser.

Innovation is also a keystone to efficiency, Schlosser said. Agencies need to find ways to free up capital by consolidating duplicative programs.

“The money we are spending to have duplicative commodity IT could be so much better invested,” she said.

But Schlosser continually stressed that agencies need to be customer centric.

Two ways agencies are doing this is through social media and mobile outreach.

The State Department has outlined several ways social media can be used to reach its customers.

One is the use of simple language.

“I went to law school and some of [our past content] is not intelligible or intuitive to me,” said Nicole Stillwell, deputy chief of new media at the State Department, after she read an old visa application description.

The new application description uses plain, easy-to-understand language that can be easily translated to tweets or Facebook posts.

“Simple is beautiful,” Stillwell said. “Plain language makes it so much easier to use in other platforms.”

Social media is where agencies’ audiences are, according to Stillwell, making it the best place to reach them.

During a crisis in Turkey, the State Department was able to reach 30,000 people to deliver vital information through social media, Stillwell said.

Of course, people need a way to reach social media sites and other information on the go, which is why mobile is the future of government technology, according to Jacob Parcell, manager of mobile programs at the General Services Administration.

To master mobile, agencies need to continually improve. Parcell demonstrated Census Bureau’s Dwellr app and the Centers for Disease Control’s Solve the Outbreak app as ways government is improving and innovating to engage its audience.

While some agencies are leading the way, others need to catch up, but Parcell offers a word of advice to fledgling mobile departments, “Put yourself in the shoes of the user.”

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Applications & Software, apps, Government IT News, Jacob Parcell, Lisa Schlosser, mobile and wireless, mobility, Nicole Stillwell, Tech, workforce
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