A survey of 2,000 ratepayers has found that more than half consider themselves engaged with their local council, with 57% saying they would be more inclined to engage on Council issues if they could do so digitally.
The survey, commissioned by technology services provider, Datacom, revealed positive levels of engagement between Australians and their local councils but identified a lack of two-way digital channels as a barrier for people wanting to share feedback or feel heard.
As the Government formulates Data and Digital Government Strategy, the research aimed to discover how well connected Australians feel to their local government.
More than half of participants (54%) reported feeling engaged with their local council, 35% “felt heard” by local government and 37% felt their feedback was valued.
Councils were largely seen to be getting it right when it comes to the information they provide, with 3 out of 4 (73%) participants finding communications from their local council useful, and 60% feeling their council communicates well during times of crisis – including extreme weather events, flooding and bush fires. The survey also found there was a strong appetite for more relevant timely information on local road closures, construction works, and community events.
Two-way digital channels were shown to have significant potential in addressing concerns over ratepayers being better heard and feedback more valued, with 57% of survey respondents reporting they would engage with council issues more if they could do it digitally, and 67% of respondents saying they would use an app if available.
Key areas of opportunity for councils to provide digital channels or service options that were identified included making payments (50%), submitting and processing permit and licence applications (41%) and making facility bookings (34%).
Levels of council engagement varied across the states – respondents from Victoria were the least engaged, with just 68% reporting feeling aware of and engaged with their local council services, and WA respondents were the most engaged, with 78% reporting feeling connected to their council.
“Overall, the survey results show positive levels of engagement between local councils and the Australian communities they are serving. The notable gap is the ability for people to share and receive information from their council in a more immediate way, and for this to be a two-way channel that enables feedback,” says Datacom Director of Local Government and MD SaaS Products, Peter Nelson.
“Small changes can make a big difference in whether people feel they are being listened to. Working with our council partners, we’ve seen the positive impact that digital tools like Datascape are having in terms of enabling staff and customers to interact and access information digitally in more practical, ways.
“Mobile apps like Antenno are also providing a solution for the public to report issues on the-go (such as blocked drains or fallen trees), and proactively share helpful reminders like remembering to put out the rubbish on the right day.”
Research Antenna, an independent consumer research agency on behalf of Datacom, conducted an online AntennaPoll survey of n=2000 Australian ratepayers, split evenly (n=400 in each of the five mainland Australian states). The survey was conducted between 9th of June to 15th of June 2023. The survey data collection was national, and respondents were sourced using an accredited online research access panel. Data was weighted for representation against the 2021 Australian census.