A survey of 2,000 homeowners commissioned by Datacom shows positive levels of engagement between Australians and their local councils, but identifies the lack of two-way digital channels as a barrier for people wanting to share feedback or feel heard.
Coinciding with the government formulating its Data and Digital Government Strategy, the research aimed to discover how well connected Australians feel to their local government. The findings discovered that while over half of Australians (54%) report feeling engaged with their local council, just 35% feel heard and only 37% feel their feedback is valued.
Councils are largely seen to be getting it right when it comes to the information they provide, with 3 out of 4 (73%) Australians finding communications from their local council useful, and 60% feeling their council communicates well during times of crisis – including extreme weather events, flooding and bush fires. There is, however, strong demand for more relevant timely information on local road closures, construction works, and community events.
The research found that Australians are ready for digital-first government. Two-way digital channels are shown to have significant potential to address concerns over being better heard and feedback more valued, with 57% of survey respondents reporting they would engage with council issues more if they could do it digitally, and 67% of respondents saying they would use an app if available.
Key areas of opportunity for councils to provide digital channels or service options that were identified included making payments (50%), submitting and processing permit and license applications (41%) and making facility bookings (34%).
Digital channels also have the potential to increase awareness of the facilities and services that councils provide to their communities with 44% of respondents reporting they were not aware of the full range of services their council provides.
Levels of council engagement did vary across the states – respondents from Victoria were the least engaged, with just 68% reporting feeling aware of and engaged with their local council services, and WA respondents were the most engaged, with 78% reporting feeling connected to their council.
Datacom works with 117 councils across Australia providing technology solutions and services, including its cloud-based solution Datascape which is designed to help councils to engage and work more collaboratively with their communities.
“Overall, the survey results show positive levels of engagement between local councils and the Australian communities they are serving. The notable gap is the ability for people to share and receive information from their council in a more immediate way, and for this to be a two-way channel that enables feedback,” says Peter Nelson, Datacom Director of Local Government and MD SaaS Products.
“Small changes can make a big difference in whether people feel they are being listened to. Working with our council partners, we’ve seen the positive impact that digital tools like Datascape are having in terms of enabling staff and customers to interact and access information digitally in more practical, ways.
“Mobile apps like Antenno are also providing a solution for the public to report issues on-the-go (such as blocked drains or fallen trees), and proactively share helpful reminders like remembering to put out the rubbish on the right day.”