Achieving Remote Control
Chances are you or someone you know is now working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a local government that has the means and the foresight to maintain and improve its technology infrastructure, the move to remote work has likely been as easy as turning off the office lights and firing up the laptop at home.
Some local governments have not been as successful in moving to remote work. Many represent small communities where budgets are limited, and technology is aging or nonexistent.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March, set aside substantial funds to support the COVID-19 response efforts of state and county governments of certain-sized jurisdictions. Local governments have been able to apply for assistance through their county or state. CARES Act funding has recently been extended through December 31, 2021, offering local governments additional time to apply for this important source of COVID relief.
A recent blog post by Meredith Trimble, a former municipal official, points out that many governments are already tapping into CARES funds, not only to comply with public health measures, but to enable remote work, keep government operations running and enhance community engagement.
Here’s how Trimble breaks down these key areas in her article:
Employees’ ability to work remotely is at the heart of local governments’ response to COVID-19. These governments have transformed familiar in-person workflows to new digital solutions such as employee self-service, virtual timesheets and digital content management, each of which supports pandemic guidelines.
Continuity of Operations
Despite social distancing protocols, governments have continued to function by using technology solutions that bypass the need for in-person meetings and paper-based workflows. These solutions support remote meeting management and transparency, online permitting and licensing, and vendor self-service as well as electronic citations, online dispute resolution and virtual courts.
In addition, as COVID-19 turns budgets upside down, financial software and data analytics that provide real-time, actionable insight support better decisions and smarter resource allocation. These measures decrease personal interactions and allow governments to perform core operations even while offices are closed.
Technology that helps community members engage with government remotely allows residents to access vital services without the need for in-person interaction. Examples include incident-reporting software for nonemergency inquiries, citizen open data and self-service portals, and notification software that provides essential information via multiple channels.
Agencies that use cloud-based technology solutions have had an easier time enabling remote work and scaling up to meet evolving public engagement needs. Cloud-based solutions have inherent scalability and take the pressure off IT departments to manage servers. The cloud also makes it easier to connect securely with remote workers. The ability to deploy software remotely has helped governments quickly implement self-service portals, remote payroll changes, mobile apps and new financial reporting, among other solutions.
The strength of governments and the key to their successful continuity of operations is an integrated software ecosystem that enables remote workflows and connectivity for decision-makers, employees and the public. Using available funding to attend to urgent and widely acknowledged needs can improve agency stability during the short-term crisis, while also supporting future success.
Meredith Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies.