The word government comes from Old French, which took it from a word in Latin (which got it from Greek) meaning to steer (as in a ship). As Franklin Roosevelt said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.”, and Thomas Jefferson said that “The care of human life and happiness…is the first and only object of good government.” Government is people trying to help and people, and a tool as powerful as digital signage can do a lot to help foster community and kinship among citizens.
One of the main things digital signage can do is save people time, and time is increasingly seen as our most valuable resource. The public can get information they need easily, and staff are freed from commonplace enquiries, so they can focus on more personalized service for their constituents.
You can show virtually any kind of message on digital signs. Current announcements, events, processes and issues can be displayed in any government office or lobby. Daily information, such as local weather forecasts and current traffic patterns and blockages, help people plan their days better. News feeds and tickers keep people connected to the larger world and up to date on current events as they unfold. When combined with public transport schedules, governmental digital signage can become a useful tool for anyone visiting any kind of office.
In the facility itself, wayfinding maps and interactive directories can make navigating the hallways easy and stress free. Queueing information can further reduce stress by reducing perceived wait times at many locations – the DMV, courthouses, the VA, Social Security offices, etc. And while people are waiting, digital signs can display information that helps people accomplish what they’re there for – how to formulate questions correctly to expedite service, point people to the necessary forms and show them how to fill them out correctly, and provide other guidance to streamline the whole experience. Showing rules and regulations for specific departments and institutions further educate people as to the fastest way to get through the process.
Specific locations can tailor messages as well. For example, courthouses can show current court dockets, pending cases and hearings, or sheriff’s offices can display local crime stats and hotline information. And digital signage can also help knit the community at large together, with messages advertising local events and initiatives to increase attendance. Volunteer opportunities can help encourage participation and activism. Showing information on how initiatives and projects are currently doing lets people see their tax dollars at work, directly impacting their community.
Of course, emergency alerts (such as extreme weather) can be sent to any screen, or even all screens in a building, on a campus or across the entire geographical areas. Not just alerts about what is happening, but clear instructions on what to do, where to go and how to get help.
Many communities are multiethnic, and multi-language support is simple with today’s digital signage software. Especially when using interactive kiosks and touchscreens – people simply touch an onscreen hot spot to change the language to one they’re more comfortable with.
The local Chamber of Commerce can support local business and non-profits by supplying advertising space on digital signs. This can also become a source of revenue to offset operation costs. Not just a play-for-play system, but the organization can feature noteworthy businesses in weekly or monthly spotlights and make recommendations. Interactive directories can let people discover exactly what’s available in their community – from for-profit businesses to more civic-minded institutions such as churches and adult education classes.
One of the strengths of a web-based digital signage system is that messages can be created and scheduled form anywhere to screens anywhere in the world. An entire county can be covered with relevant messages from a single computer.
Tourism offices can also display information people might need or want as they visit the area. Instead of printing out hundreds of different paper brochures, use QR tags to point people to relevant webpages (either supplied by vendors or dedicated pages created especially for this purpose). Maps, landmark information, hours of operation and local history can all easily be displayed on screens and interactive kiosks.
You can even crowdsource the content. Find out what people want – create an online survey for citizens to access and advertise it on your digital signs with a QR code. Have them tell you what sort of information they would find most useful, and then create that content for them. This again builds a real sense of citizen engagement since they see that their voices have been heard and responded to.
Digital signage can also help increase efficiencies in the office and motivate employees to always do their best. Let them know what’s been successful and show progress towards goals on projects, giving them a sense that what they do is meaningful and has a positive impact. Show them they’re trusted by supplying them with statistics relevant to their jobs, and clarifications about the purpose of the government branch or facility. Increase training options with touchscreen kiosks containing training modules, or informational videos and quizzes. Show productivity stats so they see how the entire organization is performing. Recognize employees who meet targets early, and who go above and beyond in their normal duties. Remember that building community within the office is just as important as building the community at large.
Digital signage is a dynamic and flexible communications tool that can be tailored in any way needed. Even a category as varied as “government”, with all the different kinds of institutions that live under that umbrella, each with its own specific needs and challenges, can find no tool more powerful, more customizable, and more effective for citizen communications and engagement. The question is not “Why use digital signage in the public sector?” The question is – “Why not?”