Making a better future for the next generation in North Carolina.

Will 20th Century Government Systems Satisfy Our Kids in 2040?

Feb 27, 2024 | Efficiency, Government, North Carolina | 0 comments

So, Carolyn and I decided to have a no-digital-day. It sounded like fun. Could we put away our smartphones, tablets, and laptops for one day? Could we just enjoy nature and put pen to paper to record our thoughts or do sketches?

We quickly made exceptions for all the things our smartphones had replaced. By turning off our smartphones, we lost our telephones, cameras, pedometers, music, podcasts, games, radio, encyclopedia, dictionary, calculator, newspapers, books, bank, travel agents, stores, and so much more. The genius of a smartphone is that we have apps for all those things. One appliance in our pocket does it all.

This morning, I got thinking about how different that is from the way we deliver governarment services. If we need a driver’s license we go to the Department of Motor Vehicles office. Starting a business? The North Carolina Secretary of State website says, “There are over 700 regulatory, state-issued and occupational licenses and permits. In addition, a local license may be required for your business.” Need a building permit? Go to Development Services at your local city hall. Applying for financial assistance? Go to the Department of Health and Human Services. And so on.

Is this the system we want to pass on to our digital-savvy grandchildren? Our governments are locked into old-style divisional organizations built in the 19th and 20th centuries. If we can have smartphones that perform hundreds of functions on one appliance, if we can have online retailers that cover thousands of categories, why can’t North Carolina have a universal government service website and app?

The North Carolina Universal Government Services app — UGS-NC

In 2040, imagine our adult kids could use UGS-NC whenever they need licenses, information, or government help of any kind. Imagine that all levels of government could tie into it. Imagine it understood multiple languages. Imagine users could switch to a video call with a human anytime. Imagine those without computers could access it in their local libraries. Imagine UGS-NC had a 98.7% customer satisfaction rating.

There have been many attempts to make government more efficient and customer-friendly in the last twenty years. Many government departments have options to do business online. To my knowledge, though, none have tried to break down the departmental silos we inherited from our grandparents. Now that smartphones and online retailers have shown the way, maybe it’s time for government to catch up. The politician that grabs this issue and makes government easy for citizens will be popular with the next generation.

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