Public transparency is a key cornerstone of local government activity. It is not uncommon for citizens to be mistrustful of governmental entities – when people don’t fully understand the reasons for fast or sudden changes, they tend to lean more towards skepticism. Municipal leaders largely follow the sentiment that transparency is crucial in keeping with freedom and democracy, and they understand that citizens desire information and easy access to that information. However, practicing strong public transparency is much easier said than done, and many municipalities struggle to do so in a relevant, efficient and cost-effective manner. As the bulk of good ideas comes from citizen feedback, it is crucial for local governments to maintain healthy and open lines of communication with the public to foster a strong working relationship.
Developing public transparency also means delivering on accountability expectations. Citizens are always looking to see that the local government is putting their tax dollars to good use, and generally expect to see good reasoning for and positive outcomes from the decisions that are made. Local governments that ensure citizens that they maintain accountability for all things in their control helps the public feel at peace and can even spark a sense of pride. For individuals or businesses looking to move into a new city, town or village, visiting a municipality’s website is likely one of their first screening steps. It is up to the municipality to provide an easily navigable website that communicates to an outsider everything they would need to know to get a good sense of the area and how effective – or ineffective – the local government seems to be. Best practices for public transparency will naturally support and improve other aspects of local government activity.
When local governments take steps to improve public transparency, they are also setting the groundwork for stronger citizen engagement. Of course, personal interaction between local government workers and citizens has always been an effective method of developing and growing positive relationships. However, advancements in technology have moved a lot of those interactions online, which offers a number of additional benefits in terms of citizen engagement.
Now, engagement can be measured by how citizens are interacting with the resources and information that municipalities provide online. When it is clear that a local government organization is working hard to be as transparent with the community as possible, such as consistently posting announcements and resources online, citizen engagement increases as a result. Municipalities can expect to see more citizens contributing to local government discussions and participating in government-run activities simply because they feel that their local government is accessible, approachable and transparent.
Making data and information more available to the public is a core responsibility of local government organizations. If municipalities don’t invest in the right tools that help facilitate this process, they are not truly investing in public transparency. In the highly digital world of today, practicing transparency means giving the public digital access to information. With the right technology on their side, local governments can make public transparency achievable, scalable and cost-effective while enabling easy digital access to local government data for smaller towns, large cities and everything in between.
A board portal enables local governments to run leaner by making more efficient use of their time and resources, digitizing records and automating tedious, manual processes that bar local government workers from fulfilling their other responsibilities. Things like digital records and advanced search tools online significantly decrease the volume of public requests and give citizens the sense that their local government puts them first.