The importance of having an engaging government website

Sep 16, 2015

Tablet Voting.jpgWhen it comes to improving the delivery of services for citizens and maintaining transparency within government processes, organizations should consider every tool they have in their proverbial belts – including technology. Government technology solutions exist in order to help agencies meet the demands of an ever-changing public atmosphere, so federal, state and local authorities should make sure they're utilizing tech to its fullest capacity wherever possible. One of those areas in which government organizations can use technology to their advantage is with their websites.

What makes a good website?
A successful website will be able to quickly and effectively provide citizens with information, including minutes from committee meetings. According to the Vermont Council on Rural Development contributors Caitlin Lovegrove and Tess Gauthier, webpagesdevoted to meeting minutes are some of the most-accessed pages on any government organization's website, and agency IT directors should make them clear, easily accessible and up-to-date.

"These minutes have a huge potential to engage the public," Lovegrove and Gauthier wrote. "Having updated minutes demonstrates to a town's citizens that the town is committed to citizen engagement and transparency. So, even if everything else on the site stays static, be sure to have your minutes updated in a timely manner, and make sure they are easy to find."

Great examples abound
Government Technology reported that for the annual Best of the Web awards for agency websites, the Center for Digital Government chose Independence, Missouri; Sacramento County, California; and the state of Arkansas as having the best, most helpful websites. Some characteristics of these sites are that they're dynamic and engaging without "cram[ming] everything in on one view," according to Mark Baumann, the IT director for Independence. In effect, the most successful websites are easy to use cross-platform and should provide an energetic, interactive way for citizens to get involved in government processes.

According to Lovegrove and Gauthier, these sites should also be managed by someone who understands the community for which they have been created, instead of sending the job outside of government. Who best to update and keep track of city and state information than the administrators who know and love their communities? This also ensures that the information contained on a Web page is accurate and up-to-date.

No matter where government organizations decide where to house their websites, whether they want to move their operations to the cloud or keep everything on dedicated servers in government data centers, this technology is an important tool that federal, state and local agencies should take advantage of.