Education & Government
Diana Baker Freeman Image
Diana Baker Freeman
Sr. Manager, Modern Governance Advocacy & Iniatives

How technology can help local governments build public trust

January 5, 2024
0 min read
How technology can help local governments build public trust

Trust between governments and citizens is a basic tenet of democracy. Governments function and serve their constituents more efficiently when an underlying trust exists between them. Trust and confidence built in times of stability can be an enormous advantage when crises hit.

But trust in government entities has been eroding for decades. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that trust in the federal government is at an all-time low. That public mistrust spills over to state and local governments, as well. Unchecked, mistrust and low confidence leads to apathy, low voter turnout, little or no support for tax increases and new initiatives, and resistance to or noncompliance with regulations and laws.

Transparency, two-way communication, and responsiveness to problems and complaints are the building blocks of trust for local governments, but it can be challenging to consistently provide these elements. Those challenges include:

  • Inadequate or unclear communication that creates gaps in understanding
  • Lack of opportunities for public input and lack of inclusivity in decision-making processes
  • Confusion about open meetings laws and other regulations and requirements
  • Lack of transparency about actions, decisions and financial transactions

Building trust is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and a genuine commitment to open and accountable governance. Fortunately, technology and digital tools are available to help local government entities overcome those challenges and enhance transparency, communication and responsiveness.


Keeping the public informed and updated is at the heart of building trust. Digital communication tools can assist you in providing timely information to your constituents in the form of emails, newsletters, texts, and social media posts. It’s important to provide information through varied channels to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Pushing out credible information is important, including automated public meeting notices, such as agendas and relevant documents. You also can make meeting records available on your website, including minutes, decisions and supporting documents, in a publicly accessible format. Real-time access to meeting materials, agendas, and documents ensures that the public can stay informed about ongoing discussions and decisions as they happen. This proactive approach keeps residents informed and encourages attendance or participation.

You can build public trust through your website, which should be the sole source of reliable information. All communication that you send out should contain the same information as the website, so that you have a consistent message through all your channels.


Encourage participation by residents who can’t attend in person by live-streaming your public meetings. Record and archive meetings so that those unable to attend can access the information later. Use your online platforms for public engagement, through things like online forums, surveys and other interactive tools that allow citizens to voice their opinions on various issues.

Actively seek public input on key decisions and policies and communicate how citizen feedback is considered in decision-making processes. This promotes public participation and ensures that diverse perspectives are considered. Digital tools allow for the integration of features that allow the public to submit requests to speak for upcoming meetings. Respond promptly to inquiries and concerns raised through these channels to demonstrate responsiveness which in turn builds trust.

Open meeting compliance

For publicly elected governance boards, discussing board business outside of scheduled meetings not only violates open meeting laws, but also puts the public’s information at risk. Open meetings laws are in the public interest. Nothing destroys trust faster than citizens finding out that board or council members discussed and agreed on decisions behind closed doors. Board management software allows you to centralize council and management workflows and communications, and uses role-based authorizations for viewing certain council materials to allow for a level of confidentiality while also ensuring that the public has easy access to required information.


Discussing and making decisions at open meetings is a form of transparency that the public has a right to expect. Explaining and demonstrating how and why you make decisions builds trust, even with those who disagree with your decision. When you make the data, documents, and other material available for the public, they can see you trust them to understand why decisions have been made.

Transparency in how you are spending the public’s resources through budgeting is essential. Provide detailed information about the budget, including revenue sources, allocation of funds, and expenditures. Encourage citizens to explore and understand the budgetary process.

People, including business owners and potential vendors, often don’t understand the government procurement process. This is another area where technology can provide transparency. Publish information about contract awards, vendor selection criteria, and bidding processes on your website with any necessary narrative about projects and expenses.

Transparency about your decision-making process and actions will increase the public perception that you are accountable for your votes, spending, hiring and services. Citizens want to see that their government takes responsibility and addresses issues promptly.

Using technology to help build public trust

Your public’s trust is invaluable. It takes a long time to build or rebuild trust, and it can be shattered in a moment. When the public believes in the integrity and competence of municipal authorities, they are more likely to support and comply with policies, leading to effective and smooth implementation. Your ability to lead and serve your constituents depends on their trust and engagement.

Governing effectively is a complex process, especially when facing limited resources. With technology tools like board management software, boards and councils and their staff create the elements needed to build trust. These tools allow you to demonstrate transparency, encourage public engagement, and strengthen communication. They can help you stay on top of open meeting laws and be in compliance with other regulations and mandates.

How Diligent Community can help

Diligent Community can be an effective way for local governments to promote transparency and community engagement, specifically the Public Transparency Website. By livestreaming and recording meetings, providing powerful search capabilities, accepting public requests to speak online, and sending automatic notifications, board members can build trust with their constituents and ensure that all voices are heard.

Diligent Community enables meeting agendas, meeting minutes, policy manuals, strategic plans, goal information and orientation resources to be uploaded and distributed to stakeholders regardless of device or location. This has a profound impact on the board’s ability to demonstrate transparency.

Using board management technology can help municipalities build trust with their community stakeholders. Curious to learn more? Explore how a modern digital solution to support board governance can help your local government.


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