Adobe Public Sector Blog

September 3, 2008 /Government Innovation /

There is an Engagement Gap in Government

Government leaders who want to implement change and improve public service should consider technology as a tool for ‘engaging’ their constituencies. Citizen centricity is not a new concept for eGovernment initiatives, but the application of technology to improve engagement for the entire ecosystem is new. An individual ‘engages’ with government the moment they require an agencies services, attempt to transact business with an agency or simply seek to understand its mission. That individual may be a citizen, they may also be an employee, a businessman or business entity, a non-profit, a serviceman, a contractor, etc. Engagement manifests itself with a phone call, browsing a web site or mobile device, visiting a physical office or personal contact with a government professional at work or home. When the experience of engagement is meaningful and effective, an agency will more successfully deliver on its mission.

In private industry, effective customer engagement is paramount to success, with companies like Amazon, Google and Apple thriving because they effectively use technology to enrich the point of engagement with their customers. In government however, technology is used more as a tool for automating process or providing transparency to operations. The consequence is that the individual who must engage with the agency is forgotten and becomes disengaged from the process. Adobe calls this circumstance an engagement gap.

For a very simple example, go to any government agency Website (I don’t want to pick on a specific one, but try a regional social services agency) and you will probably find a picture of the agency’s leader, a list of recent news and an organizational chart. Now imagine if you went to and the first thing you found was a picture of the CEO, Steve Jobs, a list of recent Apple press releases, and links to the different business units inside Apple. You probably wouldn’t buy an iPod. For Apple the consequence of poor engagement would be lost sales. For the social services agency, its a lost opportunity to help someone in need.

The concept of engagement can seem abstract at first and we will spend some time on this blog substantiating it.

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Government Innovation

Join the discussion

  • By Steve W - 3:10 PM on September 4, 2008  

    While I don’t disagree that the photo of the guy in charge isn’t very useful (much less engaging), the key thing to keep in mind is that the sites must be accessible to all regardless of physical capabilities, computing experience, or network connection speed. Trying to develop engaging interfaces for somebody with a 14.4 connection speed that doesn’t know what the “Start” button is for is difficult., CDC, FDA, and others have made tremendous headway in advancing the look and functionality of their sites.

  • By thinman - 8:54 AM on September 5, 2008  

    Perhaps the engagement conceptual discussion could include a bit about always designing and developing to a single lowest-common-denominator.

    There are different lowest-common-denominators for different target user groups.

    Sure, the Digital Divide exists now more than ever, but creatively, effectively leveraged Adobe solutions can help eGov serve engaging, useful information assets to its industry colleagues (inside and outside the intranet), and key resources to industry constituents in similarly engaging – though less resource-intensive – ways.

    IMHO, it’s high time to stop using end-user technology gaps and accessibility issues as excuses and start using them as even greater opportunities to serve.

  • By Billigflug - 5:03 AM on October 15, 2008  

    Well the concept of what you define as an engagement gap is very easy to understand and I am glad that you identified the problem and deal with it. I am cuious about how you would like to solve this problem. I totally agree with you that most services and programs are made to do thinks automatically, exculpate employees from time-consuming tasks and increase efficiency. You talk about a foiling effect because of loosing engagement. So does the answer lie in the middle of letting people work on their own and letting things do automatically? Or is it maybe a question of motivation? I am really looking forward to your appoach!