How Government Agencies are Using Communication Tools to Conduct Business Virtually

Author: Gina Cunsolo

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country in early 2020, government officials reacted in much the same way as those in the private sector. Workers began doing their jobs from home, and many processes moved online. Face-to-face meetings were nonexistent and tasks that required interaction with a government official were conducted via webcam.

But as we emerge from the pandemic and return to a sense of normalcy, many of the communication systems put in place during the height of the pandemic will likely remain in use for the foreseeable future. Having the ability to conduct business virtually not only helps in the effort to put an end to the virus, it can be more convenient for the public and less expensive for governments than going back to the in-person ways of the past.

Here are a few ways governments are leveraging the virtual world to serve the public:

Virtual town halls

Local representatives and town councils holding virtual town halls are some of the best examples of why technology is so important in local government. Issues as mundane as parking regulations and as serious as health insurance are fodder for virtual town hall meetings. Townhall video conferencing systems also allow lawmakers to discuss issues in their districts with residents while providing for social distancing.

Yamaha UC has a number of audio solutions for virtual town halls: microphone systems, sound bars, and personal Bluetooth speakerphones.

Essential services

Life goes on even in those cases where people are encouraged to stay home, and videoconferencing tools are helping to provide the services on which citizens depend. In Nevada, for example, virtual classrooms are being used to provide resources in both English and Spanish for current and future small business owners. The video-based virtual classroom library includes short videos and full-length classes covering topics relevant to small businesses.

And in New York, one county is holding virtual property auctions that allow bidders to participate from anywhere in the country.  The auctions help lower the burden on the municipality and provide a chance for people to become property owners.

Permits and licenses

Couples in love still wanted to get married during the height of the pandemic, and New York City stepped up to help with “Project Cupid.” After filling out some forms and paying the licensing fee, the happy couple could meet virtually with a City Clerk and be issued a license. To help complete the process, the city also offered the option of a virtual marriage ceremony.

And in one city in Florida, builders can request virtual inspections for AC changeouts, water heaters, window and door replacements, and garage doors. The process is quick and convenient, allowing contractors and residents to set an appointment time and eliminating waiting for an inspector to arrive.

Court proceedings

Some of the first government services to adopt virtual operations in the wake of the pandemic were court proceedings, with hundreds of thousands of court cases being held in virtual courtrooms. Although the pandemic appears to be subsiding, many jurisdictions plan to continue virtual court hearings. The state Supreme Court of New Jersey, for example, notes that virtual proceedings have reduced time and costs and have created fewer scheduling conflicts. Although some in-person actions will resume, proceedings such as motion hearings, status conferences, and most municipal hearings and trials will continue to be conducted virtually.

Recognizing how technology affects government, the Center for Legal and Court Technology at the College of William & Mary` boasts a laboratory and classroom that serves as a testbed for the latest advancements in courtroom and legal technology and a training ground for tomorrow’s tomorrow lawyers. The courtroom is equipped with the newest generation of court-reporting technology and the latest hardware and software - not to mention, Yamaha’s Executive Elite Wireless Microphone System. The microphones provide flexibility that allow lawyers to move around the room and not worry about their audio.

The importance of audio

Although much of the emphasis in discussions of virtual technology revolved around the importance of clear video, the audio component is equally as important.

Chances are most of us have seen news reports or company meetings where someone’s audio lagged or stuttered or was otherwise difficult to hear. Although that may just be an aggravation in those situations, poor audio can have a significant impact on someone’s life when it comes to government business. Poor audio in a virtual permit inspection, for example, can result in project delays costing thousands of dollars, while in a virtual court misheard testimony could affect the outcome of a trial.

When preparing government operations for the virtual world, don’t overlook audio. If you need advice on outfitting a government facility for crystal-clear audio, reach out to the experts at Yamaha Unified Communication.