You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Just Wait Till the Next Generation Confronts Public Sector Technology

I’m not exactly clear what generation I am. My Dad fought in the Pacific in WW2, and that probably should make me part of the baby-boomer generation (although being the youngest of 5, it puts me at the tail-end of that generation). My son came home from college one day, however, and promptly declared me to be a part of the X-generation. I’m not exactly sure why, but it appeared to have something to do with my views on life and my embracing of technology.

This is actually a bit interesting, since I didn’t grow up around technology – I bought my first PC in grad school to help me write my thesis (it was an IBM XT BTW, just for those of you who are “experienced” enough to know – remember the “turbo” button). I also remember marching across the quad with a box of punch cards to submit to the mainframe gods.

Now …. the interesting stuff. I have 2 sons, ages 22 and 23. These guys grew up with technology and couldn’t even imagine a world without it. They expect to be connected all of the time and use technology for everything they do. In addition, they will “never ever” consult a user’s manual. My kids seem to push buttons until they figure it out. They expect technology to be easy to use and to give them immediate and full access to everything (i.e., instant gratification).

Why am I getting into this discussion? This new generation is coming of age. My niece and her husband (also of the same generation as my boys), for example, just bought their first house. Because of their familiarity with technology and their expectations for instant access, they will never be happy running down to the county or city offices to get a building permit. They will expect local government-related information to be on the web and to be instantly available. In addition, they will show little tolerance for changing the same information in multiple departments (think addresses).

These folks will end up demanding changes in how cities and counties approach their business and their emphasis on instant access will challenge both local government technology and the vendor community. Public sector technology or private sector—it’s all the same to them. They want it NOW.

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