Imagine using your Apple watch to explore boat launches and water trails at state parks - (this is happening in Maryland). Or using an innovative technology product like Amazon Echo to quiz you for an upcoming driving test - (currently available in Utah). Or having your cell phone remind you and help you renew your driver's license - (thousands are using this in Arkansas).
No lines. No paperwork. No bureaucracy. Which sounds slightly unbelievable given that we are discussing the government, but what we are looking at is the future role our government will play in our daily lives.
The company at the heart of this innovation is NIC. With a slogan that reads "making good government great" NIC describes their purpose as making government more accessible and more efficient for all.
NIC has spent the last 20+ years working to infuse tedious government processes with technology. They work with 4,500 federal, state, and local government agencies, processing more than 300 million transactions in a year. NIC calls the next best thing in government innovation Personal Government Assistants.
As I mentioned above, one might call it, turning Uncle Sam into Aunt Alexa...you know, the voice on your Amazon Echo that you currently ask for weather reports, news headlines or to tell jokes. NIC envisions a time when citizens don't need to know what specific office or agency or web site or app they need to use to complete a certain transaction.
You simply speak to your phone or other device, and tell it you want to renew your car registration, and it takes care of the rest, pulling data and performing transactions with multiple agencies behind the scenes all on your behalf. And it does all this with a conversational user interface that makes giving information and making decisions as easy as talking to a real person.
In the past, dealing with the government meant a ton of paperwork and standing in lines. In the more recent past, it meant pulling up web sites on your computer or mobile web and apps on your phone. Now, it is one step further: as easy as telling Alexa to start playing a music playlist. All of this is geared toward creating a more citizen-centric experience, one where technology actually works to make their lives easier.
Take the example of renewing your car registration. In some states, in order for that to happen, it requires four different transactions with three different government bodies.
- You have to declare your personal property with your local county government
- You have to pay your personal property taxes with your local county government
- You have to prove you have insurance to the state department of motor vehicles
- You have to pay your registration fee to the state department of revenue
Even if you did all of these transactions online it would take a while. You'd have to remember which agencies to visit online, navigate through the web sites, and complete the transactions.
Now imagine a scenario that looks like this:
You: "Alexa, I need to renew my license plates."
Alexa: "OK, the first step is to declare your personal property. Do you still own a 2002 Jeep Liberty and a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder?"
Alexa: "Great. I'm showing personal property taxes of $1,235 due. Can I pay that using the credit card on file?"
Alexa: "Great. Let's grab a picture of your insurance card. Hold it in front of your camera and tap when you are ready. All done. Do you want to renew your plates for one year or two?"
Alexa: "OK, $45.54 will be billed to your credit card. You will get your renewal paperwork in the mail in 7 to 10 days."
A transaction that could have taken a couple hours in real life, or at least a few minutes online now takes a few seconds. NIC is working to deliver this kind of interaction to taxpayers nationwide...all in an effort to eliminate the friction that often comes when dealing with the government. Arkansas has launched a Gov2Go app which alerts you to any transaction deadlines that are approaching and helps you to complete them all, right within the app.
140,000 people in Arkansas have signed up for the Gov2Go service, and this is only the beginning. Utah & Mississippi--Both of these states have launched early integration with the Amazon Echo (for those not familiar with an Echo, imagine if Apple's Siri was a standalone speaker in your house, but instead of just asking single answer questions, you could actually have a conversation with multiple requests and tasks).
In Mississippi you can ask Alexa basic information about state government and when your driver's license is due for renewal. In Utah, you can speak with Alexa as she quizzes you for your practice driver's exam. This is technology that's here and available right now and other innovations are coming. The futuristic government you've been dreaming of is right around the corner without a single line or wait time.