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Bridging the Generational Gap in E-Governance

Inez J. Rodenburg, GISP, CGCIO, MBA, Chief Information Officer (CIO), City of Danville
Inez J. Rodenburg, GISP, CGCIO, MBA, Chief Information Officer (CIO), City of Danville

Inez J. Rodenburg, GISP, CGCIO, MBA, Chief Information Officer (CIO), City of Danville

As Government Technologists, we must maneuver an increasingly complex and diverse climate by ensuring our constituents are provided with transparent, clear, and accurate information. Adding to the complexity is the fact that we currently support five generations in the workplace, some of whom are not as technology savvy and might be limited by broadband access. This blended climate poses challenges when establishing programs to increase e-governance. Sometimes by focusing all our efforts on providing advanced technology solutions, we fail to recognize these solutions are not generationally friendly and often lack the context by which to engage all Americans.

The very nature of e-governance signifies the need to provide information digitally and electronically in a convenient manner. In the context of that theory, however, we must be cognizant of the digital divide.

While we live in a climate of digital information, our population is divided not only by broadband access but by older adults who are often unaware of the availability of digital communication.

The Veterans (or Silent generation) and Boomers did not grow up with technology.

Their technology aptitude lags behind the Millennials and Gen Xers. These older adults are often less confident in the use of technology, and a number of health factors, including vision and hearing impairment, often hinders their use in technology. These factors combined create an environment in which not all Americans are engaged with e-governance. Due to technology constraints, digital information is not as readily accessible to this population. These generational groups still rely heavily on print media and radio. The irony behind the context of e-governance is that this service is not conducive to a print or radio format.

The basic principle behind e-governance is to provide digitally available public services and to promote good governance through electronic means. In a politically charged climate where we see increased engagement from the Millennials and Gen Xers in the political process, public trust is essential. Citizens are demanding a moral and accountable government.

E-governance serves that purpose but only to the extent that it can provide equally available information and services to all generational groups. While we have an opportunity to engage and inform all Americans, the very principle for which e-governance was created may encourage the less tech-savvy to distrust the government. While a focused online presence may reduce distribution costs and improve immediate access to information, it can also create communication silos in communities.

As important as e-Governance is to the positive transformation of adding value through information availability, we must continue to be inclusive of all citizen groups by encouraging engagement and focusing on the delivery of information, so it reaches all sectors. Awareness of generational dynamics allows communities to focus on connecting the public to innovative and cross-dynamical communication outlets that provide a blended service offering. While focusing on the digital aspects of e-governance, we must continue to recognize all generational groups and the complex digital divide. Our population is diverse. Creating channels of e-governance for all Americans will encourage a culture of inclusiveness and engagement.

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