Education & Government
Kathleen Vail Image
Kathleen Vail
Former Editor-in-Chief, National School Boards Association

Technology helps local government to include all voices

March 5, 2024
0 min read
technology for local government for inclusion

Digital and technological advances have brought about profound changes in our society, especially in the way governments and citizens view each other’s roles. The development and increased use of digital communication tools allow for greater participation in local governance.

Making sure all voices in the community are heard is a complex process that takes time and thought on the part of local government. Board management software, such as Diligent Community, is designed to make inclusion of community voices and public participation in governance seamless and easy for both the government officials and residents. With the help of technology, citizens can participate fully in the civic life of their community.

What you'll learn

  • How expectations are changing among community members
  • What barriers to inclusion currently exist
  • Ways that technology can help overcome those barriers and why it is a powerful tool for inclusion

Changing expectations

Community expectations of inclusion and transparency have grown with technology, which has enhanced civic awareness. Many residents seek more detailed information about decisions that affect the quality of life in their neighborhoods, towns, cities and counties. They want to understand why their local elected officials make their decisions, and they want a seat at the table.

In turn, local governments and municipalities increasingly are seeing the value and benefit of informed and engaged community members and constituents. The more the public understands the challenges that local elected officials face, the more it will understand board actions. Even if they ultimately disagree with final decisions, they will feel like they were a part of the process, not passive bystanders.

Breaking barriers to inclusion

In the past, people who attended city council and other local board government meetings tended to be educated and hold professional jobs. The voices of those people were often overrepresented when meetings were accessible only in person. Some residents did not know or understand the importance of such meetings, or that they could even attend. Others may have wanted to attend but needed childcare, worked night shifts, lacked transportation, did not speak English, or were differently abled.

As communities continue to grow more diverse, local governments are seeking to increase participation beyond those who can attend in-person meetings. Fortunately, board management software allows people to attend meetings from the comfort of their own homes. Citizens can submit a request to speak prior to a meeting. The software also allows people to follow along with electronic agendas while watching livestreams of meetings. Closed captioning also helps improve accessibility for viewers.

Carbondale, a town in Colorado, uses Diligent Community to increase transparency and make council meetings more accessible. Board documents are now available in an accessible format that can be translated into Spanish for the town’s sizable Latinx population.

The ability to livestream meetings has increased accessibility and improved the attendee experience. The community now has a public transparency website with easily accessible information about the town’s board and committees. This transparency, along with the reduced language barrier, is building trust among community members. The town also has seen increased participation from its residents.

The Canadian government’s requirement that municipalities publish a translated copy of meeting minutes in the local language Inuktitut posed a challenge to the Municipality of Resolute Bay in Nunavut, Canada. Using Diligent Community, municipality officials have been able to publish meeting minutes for the first time in Inuktitu, which is made up of syllabic characters.

“Once the agenda is published online, there is greater awareness in the community and beyond. We have community members subscribing to the new service so that they are informed when the next council meeting will take place,” says Ian Dudla, Resolute Bay’s chief administration officer. “The stakeholders are better informed.”

“Once the agenda is published online, there is greater awareness in the community and beyond. We have community members subscribing to the new service so that they are informed when the next council meeting will take place.” - Ian Dudla, Resolute Bay’s chief administration officer.

Technology helps include more voices

Board management software such as Diligent Community can help local governments make their meetings more inclusive and their governance more transparent, and they can encourage more civic participation in their communities. Technology helps deliver enhanced communication, virtual participation and document transparency.

Enhanced communication

By centralizing documents, meeting schedules, agendas, and meeting minutes in a digital platform and a single trusted website, board management software ensures that crucial details are readily accessible to all community members. Local governments can use board management software to publish agendas, meeting minutes and relevant documents promptly, allowing the community to stay informed and engaged. This approach to information sharing builds trust by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and accountability.

Virtual access

Attending in-person meetings can be a challenge for individuals with mobility, childcare, or transportation issues or busy work schedules. Board management software allows local government boards or councils to livestream their meetings, using video and close automated closed captions for hearing-impaired residents.

This inclusivity in decision-making not only ensures a broader range of perspectives, but also demonstrates a commitment to valuing the input of every community member. Recording meetings allows further access to those who couldn’t attend with timestamped minutes, searchable closed captions and the ability to navigate to a particular time of a meeting, all helping improve accessibility.

Multilingual support

Making meeting minutes and agenda items available in formats that can be easily translated into residents’ primary or first language also helps enhances accessibility. It sends a message that the board genuinely values the participation of all residents, regardless of their primary language. Community members are able to translate essential documents easily which also builds trust that the board is serious about equity and inclusion in its governance.

Document transparency

Board management software enhances trust by providing the public with a transparent, easily accessible and searchable repository for important documents, meeting minutes and decision outcomes. This transparency fosters accountability and enables residents to track the decision-making process, promoting a sense of openness and fairness.

Inclusive design principles

By employing inclusive design principles in the digital tools and services on offer, local governments can ensure that their services and meetings are accessible to individuals with varying abilities, creating a more inclusive environment for all residents.

Technology is a powerful tool for inclusivity and trust

Board management software such as Diligent Community provides local governments and municipalities with a powerful tool to build inclusivity and trust with their communities. By prioritizing transparent communication, virtual attendance and document transparency, local leaders are also using technology to ensure that all voices are heard.

Livestreaming and recording meetings, providing powerful search capabilities, accepting public requests to speak online, and sending automatic meeting notifications help local councils build trust with their constituents.

Make sure all voices in your community are heard and find out how Diligent Community can help with your inclusion efforts now.


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