If local governments are not investing in technology that makes data more available to the public, they are not investing in transparency. It’s really that simple.

In today’s highly connected world, transparency has become synonymous with digital access to information. The right digital tools can make transparency achievable, scalable and cost-effective while making local government data accessible to the residents of major cities like Chicago and much smaller communities such as Williamsville, New York. Chicago and Williamsville are just two U.S. cities that have implemented open data policies, a process that goes beyond simply publishing government data online and offers the public ongoing access to specific types of information in formats that are easy to use.

Transparency can benefit governments and their communities in many important ways, from enabling government leaders to more accurately gauge community needs, to driving economic growth by providing communities with information that could inspire the creation of new products and businesses.

Greater transparency can also help local governments run leaner and “do more with less” by providing more information to more people, with less effort and fewer costs. According to the Sunlight Foundation, cities such as Chicago and New York City are using open data to increase interdepartmental cooperation and government efficiency. Transparency can also lead to changes that result in better community services. The Los Angeles Times, for example, used municipal data to map emergency response times in Los Angeles neighborhoods, which sparked a call for local improvements.

How Technology Can Help

Technology is the key to greater transparency. A new generation of technology solutions, which are low-cost, easy-to-use and offer a high return on investment, are enabling a growing number of local governments of all sizes to become more transparent and engage more directly with their communities. Technology that automates manual processes makes transparency scalable. Without these tools, publishing government information online becomes unnecessarily challenging and difficult to manage.

With an automated meeting and records management solution, local governments can create paperless systems that eliminate time-consuming manual processes while connecting the public to data online. Digital records and advanced search tools make it easy for anyone to locate the exact information they need, which reduces the number of public requests for information and lessens demands on staff.

Another innovation that benefits local governments is technology that streams government data online. By linking to the government website and automatically refreshing information as staff members work throughout the day, data streaming can provide the public with current information while making transparency less labor-intensive and eliminating the cost of hiring extra staff to post frequent updates.

By making strategic investments in these and other technology solutions, local governments can achieve greater transparency, build a trust-based relationship with the citizens they serve, ensure more efficient delivery of services, and contribute to the economic growth of their communities.