Connecting state and local government leaders

How Arkansas Makes the Most of Its ‘Mobile Moments’

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Connecting state and local government leaders

The state is improving citizen engagement by increasing its likelihood of capturing mobile users with readily available government services.

A record number of hunters are using the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission app this year to report kills, as the state continues to develop services to meet mobile-minded citizens’ expectations.

Understanding that people are no longer wowed when a website scales on their mobile device because they assume it will happen—a phenomena “The Mobile Mind Shift” by Forrester Research explores—the Arkansas Information Consortium is looking ahead to wearables, the Internet of Things and virtual reality.

A subsidiary of the Olathe, Kansas-based e-government service provider NIC, AIC sees some of the highest levels of mobile utilization in the U.S.—more than 50 percent in many cases.

“I was just at a conference with a bunch of tax collectors and, as they began to provide online services, they were getting higher rates of compliance,” said Bob Sanders, AIC general manager, in an interview. “I call it the ‘iTunes effect’ because, before you could easily buy music, people would download it illegally, but as soon as they made it easy to buy it people didn’t mind paying for it.”

Sanders’ office conducted an exercise where they created a citizen persona and imagined how a year in the life of that resident, interacting with multiple government agencies, would play out. Perhaps that person wants to know about upcoming ballot initiatives and candidates, followed by when and where to vote and how to track the election results afterward.

A digital assistant that intelligently anticipates citizens’ daily needs is AIC’s next step, the precursor being its Gov2Go app for mobile and the Apple Watch. The reminder app might help a nurse track the status of their license and renew it, while suggesting they provide their license plate number so it can keep tabs on that, too.

The act of making users aware of a second service is what “The Mobile Mind Shift” would call creating a “mobile moment”—an opportunity to engage a resident and capture their business by providing better access to state or local government in some way. Mobile moments also exist freely, like when someone goes fishing and needs to renew their license out on the lake.

Gov2Go’s push notifications have proven an effective way to capture new users, who might not otherwise remember to assess their property or pay their taxes on time.

“We actually conducted a study by holding a series of focus groups last year and found citizens still have a lot of confusion about what to do, when to do it and where to go,” Sanders said. “There is a lot of anxiety about deadlines, and there are a lot annually. And it’s very easy to forget something that you only have to do once a year.”

AIC is also finding that mobile users can figure out the interface of kiosks in government buildings with ease—capturing them in their moment of need while reducing wait times.

Another recent innovation, the beacon, is a tiny, locationally aware device that can transmit a signal to a smartphone in a county revenue office—telling visitors things they need to know. Beacons can also let campers know of an available site and direct them to pay via mobile.

With mobile having been embraced in a way not even PCs have been, cost and time are the two biggest hurdles to the AIC’s work, Sanders said. Migrating a legacy website onto a mobile site requires they rebuild the content—no easy task.

Currently, the team is in the process of taking mailers governments sometimes use to advertise online, but Sanders is always thinking about the next project.

“Hopefully there will be more systems that can act on citizens’ behalf,” he said. “Like if you move to a new city and your digital assistant says, ‘Hey, you need to register to vote here.’”

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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