Imagine if your interactions with state government were as convenient as shopping online, hailing a cab with a mobile app or selecting a restaurant based on its social media rating. This can be reality if California makes it a priority — the No. 1 priority — to improve services to the public, especially for the most vulnerable Californians with the least amount of time to spare navigating bureaucracy. Not only will this show that state government values its customers’ time, it also will improve Californians’ trust in government.

During 2015, the Little Hoover Commission, California’s government watchdog, imagined how the state could do better if:

• After qualifying for one state benefit program, applicants received an option to “opt in” to other programs for which they qualify.

• Californians could sign up to receive text alerts when their car registration is due (and when that registration has been received).

• Californians could manage all their state business through one personalized log-in account.

• Entrepreneurs could file all the necessary paperwork to start and run a business, online, in one place, in a matter of minutes.

What’s holding us back? Civic technologists, user experience experts, public servants and Californians told the commission that technology is part of the solution, but isn’t everything. Improvements must start with a customer-centric focus and willingness to question the status quo. The commission recommended a chief customer officer and a small digital team to work quickly and differently to implement customer-centric reforms. Our 2016 goal is to make this happen.


This commentary originally appeared in the winter 2015 issue of Techwire magazine.