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Promoting Equity in Local Government 2023: Digital and Physical Infrastructure Considerations

By Marisa Pangaro

The Impact of Equity In Local Government

The past few years have been a time of reflection due to societal shifts that have brought fresh attention to the treatment of marginalized groups in America. Nationwide, there is an outcry for better equity throughout workplaces, public spaces, educational and governmental institutions. 

Every citizen deserves to be treated fairly by their government officials, provided equal access to government services, and protected through laws that prioritize equity for marginalized groups and underserved communities. At the local level, governments need to work to ensure social equity for all citizens. In this guide, you’ll learn more about why equity has grown increasingly important in governance, and how your county or municipal government can ensure that quality of life is equitable for all citizens, regardless of income level, race, gender, etc. 

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Why Is Equity In Local Government Important? 

Any elected official’s goal should be to make all citizens feel equally serviced and protected through government services and municipal services. Yet in many instances, the data shows that the most commonly vulnerable groups don’t get equal treatment in the quality of government services, local infrastructure, and beyond in their neighborhood. As a result, local leadership needs to allocate time and resources to ensure that all groups, especially those that have been previously underserved, receive proper treatment from all government departments in their community.

Inequity begins as seemingly small instances that, when compounded together, result in frustrating, harmful and potentially dangerous situations for the overlooked members of the community. Read on for some ways that inequity can impact your community-members, as well as how equity can be improved by your local government: 

  • Marginalized communities face the brunt of climate change, air pollution, and other acts of slow violence surrounding environmentalism. 

Oftentimes, local governments will place harmful pollutants such as power plants in low-income or marginalized areas that pollute the air, water, and surrounding environment.

People who live in these low-income areas don’t have the time or resources to protest the negative environmental effects they’ll face. These vulnerable communities often have the least access to green spaces and healthy food options, which additionally contributes to environmental injustice at the local level. Low-income neighborhoods are also more vulnerable to climate related disasters such as flooding because historically they are developed on lower lying areas of land, and for a number of reasons, owners often lack proper insurance coverage. 

Manage local zoning laws to ensure that industrial zones don’t always negatively impact low-income neighborhoods the most. And improve local public transportation to ensure vulnerable communities have easy access to job opportunities, nutritional food, green spaces, medical facilities.

Consider the NJ 3-Day Affordable Housing Construction Inspection Bill, A573 to learn from how New Jersey continues to make strides in promoting equity for all citizens. 

  • Many government services such as public health are inequitable to vulnerable communities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought attention to exactly how inequitable many public services are for underserved communities such as low income households and veterans. Utilize government time and resources to ensure that all citizens are receiving an equal level of service from the available public services your locality offers. Find out what services are lacking in underserved neighborhoods through online polls and encouraging citizens to partake in civic engagement by attending and speaking at local public meetings. 

Consider the constituents who have language barriers in communications with their local government and learn how to Overcome Language Barriers in Local Government to ensure equity for all citizens. 

Learn more about How to Hold Effective Local Public Meetings in Your City

  • Previously underrepresented communities can have their voices heard via social media.

The internet is allowing those who have often been overlooked to speak out and share issues they face at a macro level as well as micro, community-level. Use your government social media accounts to interact with community members and learn about what changes they want to see within their community. 

Improving Digital Equity In Government 

What Is Digital Equity In Government?

Increasingly relying on technology becomes problematic when access to digital technology is only available to certain community members. Digital equity is achieved when all groups of people have access to modern information technology and the skills to operate it that will allow them to fully participate in society. 

As technological advances continue to streamline almost every aspect of everyday life and alter the way that we function in society, we become more dependent on it to pay bills, complete work/school work, access information, book appointments, shop, and much more. Local governments need to ensure that broadband infrastructure, digital government services, and other government technology are accessible to all community-members. 

Key Components of a Local Government Digital Equity Strategy

  • Utilize Complaint Management Software

Digital complaint management software allows government officials to hear perspectives and issues from citizens of all backgrounds. This software is inherently unbiased as it allows any citizen to voice their opinions and be understood by their local government by filing online complaints directly from their computer or cell phone. Once a complaint is registered, it will automatically be directed to the right officials in the relevant department

Learn more about How Complaint Management Software Works

  • Social Media And Website Promotion 

Keep all of your citizens up to date on their community, including information about public meeting schedules and safety updates. Post on social media and your city website about news and community updates. People from every background deserve to be informed about what work is being done in their community, who it’s directly impacting, and how it is improving the local quality of life. 

Read on for insight into How to Optimize Your Government Website to Be More Modern

  • Include Digital Inclusion Planning In Your Community’s Strategic Plans

Prioritizing digital inclusion and avoiding the digital divide requires strategic planning by your government. Ensuring schools and other public spaces such as libraries have adequate internet access, technology, and instruction will fight the digital divide. Consider which digital infrastructure is most needed to be built / maintained, and use funds from your locality’s budget to ensure that digital infrastructure is available to every citizen including marginalized communities and senior citizens.

  • Improved Broadband Access

Broadband access is high-speed internet access that is always functional and ready to be used. Citizens, especially school children from marginalized communities, must have access to high-speed internet to function in today’s society.

Learn more about Government Broadband Planning and How BEAD Grants Are Giving Rural America Access to Better Broadband Internet.

  • Digital Forms For Licenses, Permits, And More

Most of the functions performed by your local government can be available for citizens to complete on their own, online. Citizens without cars or other reliable means of transportation will be able to make payments, file applications, and submit information online without needing to leave their homes with permitting software and online government fee and fine processing.  

Learn about the Best Government Payment Processing Services and how they can make online payments more accessible to all citizens. 

  • Utilize Government IT Support 

Local internet infrastructure needs to be routinely checked, and proven to be functioning for every citizen. Your government IT department needs to prioritize keeping digital government services functioning at all times, and also needs to plan for continually improving internet access throughout your locality. 

Government cloud technology can allow you to move all public services to a digital capacity via your government website. 

Learn more about a Modern Local Government IT Strategy and How To Recruit New Tech Employees into your local government.

How Can Physical Infrastructure Developments Improve Equity In The Community? 

Local governments must ensure that physical infrastructure developments improve and contribute to the well-being of every citizen.

1. Prioritize Infrastructure Projects In Underdeveloped Neighborhoods

Infrastructure projects are proposed plans that focus on improving services and facilities that are already in place. Underdeveloped neighborhoods in your locality should be prioritized to receive funding and resources to improve public life. 

Consider maintaining and upgrading local infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods with Infrastructure Investment Bill Funds for Local Governments

2. Modernize Water Infrastructure 

Modernized water infrastructure in your jurisdiction is vital because it serves as a safeguard for public health. Modern water infrastructure protects all citizens from waterborne and sewage-related infectious bacteria, viruses, a variety of parasites, and other toxic chemicals.

Learn more about Forming a Modern Local Government Water Utilities Strategy and How to Protect Local Bodies of Water

3. Set Up Public Health Testing 

On average, low income neighborhoods have far less opportunities for public health tests or screenings for diseases than other neighborhoods, which was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic brought to public attention. Public health screenings for COVID-19, STDs and other diseases need to be available locally, all throughout your city, especially in previously neglected areas. 

Consider these 9 Ways to Promote Public Health Sustainability in Your Community.

4. Increase Accessibility to Bike Lanes & Walking Paths

Whether by foot or bike, municipal planning dedicated to increasing traveling accessibility will make it easier for all communities to access critical stores and public services that they previously couldn’t access. 

Prioritize zoning that puts critical stores in areas that are accessible by foot, and prioritize public spaces that allow for citizens to get around by foot, bike, or electric bike

Here are Ways Local Governments Can Maximize Public Spaces.

5. Improve Public Transit 

Buses, subways, train systems, and any other form of public transit should be easily accessible to citizens throughout the locality. Not only should the schedules of public transit be available for citizens to check on but the transit itself needs to be reliable and safe. 

Increasing accessibility and improving public transit in your city will improve the air quality and reduce car usage in your community, reducing the impact of your carbon footprint. Marginalized communities suffer the most from pollution and other negative environmental impacts; reducing your community’s negative environmental impact will improve the quality of life for marginalized groups and address the source of the problem. 

Equitable Management Strategies in Government

Impactful changes in your community don’t have to happen overnight. Incremental changes can be implemented into your city management strategies that will make a big difference in the quality of life of your citizens. 

  • Use government data analytics to track your city’s progress and inform citizens of new changes. With all of the opportunities for improvement/optimization awarded to us in the digital age, keeping track of your city’s growth has never been easier. Use government software to analyze governmental data to break down and understand your city’s growth across departments. 
  • Hire government workers to directly focus on equity in your city. Recruit government employees to specifically organize projects and manage budgets to make your city more equitable and work for every citizen. 

Improve Equity in Your Community

Local governments have a responsibility to keep their communities running smoothly, efficiently, and equitably for all. Take advantage of all available digital resources to improve the overall quality of life in your city. 

Move government services to an online format for improved accessibility for all. Allow citizens to voice issues with the community with complaint management software. Modernize infrastructure in underserved parts of the community. Utilize public meetings, your government website, and social media to educate your community about how the local government is working towards being more equitable.

Let government software improve government services for all of your citizens. To learn more, book a free demo. 

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Promoting Equity in Local Government FAQs

What does equity mean for local governments?

Equity within local governments means ensuring that all groups of people are equally represented within the community. Grant all citizens equal opportunity to find success by prioritizing upward mobility within their communities, and lessening financial burdens on citizens in your community.  Ensure everyone has access to government services, infrastructure is maintained and upgraded across communities, and that marginalized groups have their opinions heard by government officials. 

How can governments technology help municipalities embrace digital equity?

Cloud-based government technology is meant to give citizens increased access to government services via a virtual format. Permit and license applications can be filed online. Critical local news and information can be distributed via your government website and social media. Online inspection forms via mobile government field devices can improve efficiency to get infrastructure projects completed more quickly. 

Local governments should be looking to recruit government tech workers who are capable of utilizing digital government technology to support  all government services and constituents. 

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Tags: Constituent Engagement, Government Efficiency, Constituent Experience, Digital Transformation, Blog, American Rescue Plan, Public Health