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Citizen Engagement and End-User Monitoring

Level 11

Forget about writing a letter to your congressman – now, people are using tools like the web, email, and social media to have their voices heard on the state, local, and federal levels. Forward-looking agencies and politicians are even embracing crowdsourcing as a way to solicit feedback and innovative ideas for improving the government.

Much of this is due to the ubiquity of mobile devices. People are used to being able do just about everything with a smartphone or tablet, from collaborating with their colleagues wherever they may be, to ordering a pizza with a couple of quick swipes.

Citizens expect their interactions with the government to be just as satisfying and simple – but, unfortunately, recent data indicates that this has not been the case. According to a January 2015 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, citizen satisfaction with federal government services continued to decline in 2014. This, despite Cross-Agency Priority goals that state federal agencies are to “utilize technology to improve the customer experience.”

Open data initiatives can help solve these issues, but efforts to institute these initiatives are creating new and different challenges for agency IT pros.

  • First, they must design services that allow members of the electorate to easily access information and interact with their governments using any type of device.
  • Then, they must monitor these services to ensure they continue to provide users with optimal experiences.

Those who wish to avoid the wrath of the citizenry would do well to add automated end-user monitoring to their IT tool bag. End-user monitoring allows agency IT managers to continuously monitor the user experience without having to manually check to see if a website or portal is functioning properly. It can help ensure that applications and sites remain problem-free – and enhance a government’s relationship with its citizens.

There are three types of end-user monitoring solutions IT professionals can use. They work together to identify and prevent potential problems with user-facing applications and websites, though each goes about it a bit differently.

First, there is web performance monitoring, which can proactively identify slow or non-performing websites that could hamper the user experience. Automated web performance monitoring tools can also report on load-times of page elements so that administrators can adjust and fix slow-loading pages accordingly.

Synthetic end-user monitoring (SEUM), allows IT administrators to run simulated tests on different possible scenarios to anticipate the outcome of certain events. For example, in the days leading up to an election or critical vote on the hill, agency IT professionals may wish to test certain applications to ensure they can handle spikes in traffic. Depending on the results, managers can make adjustments accordingly to handle the influx.

Finally, real-time end user monitoring effectively complements its synthetic partner. It is a passive monitoring process that—unlike SEUM which uses simulated data—gathers actual performance data as end-users are visiting and interacting with the web application in real time.

Today, governments are becoming increasingly like businesses. They’re trying to become more agile and responsive, and are committed to innovation. They’re also looking for ways to better service their customers. The potent combination of synthetic, real-time, and web performance monitoring can help them achieve all of these goals by greatly enhancing end-user satisfaction and overall citizen engagement.

Find the full article on GCN


Agreed in principle.  Being the different divisions of the Government have very different environments similar to the many varied environments in non-government businesses, there will be the one-size does not fit all issue.  Products that work well for one department/functional area may or will not work well for others.  Thus they will encounter some of the issues we in the private sector have already encountered regarding to everyone has their own tool and nobody talks to anyone else.  Thus we the tax payers get saddled with the cost of many different platforms to monitor many different things with no regards for leveraging comparable tools where possible and reducing costs. 

I've been involved in monitoring websites, transaction monitoring, end-user experience for over 16 years now. I am fully convinced that the easiest, best, cheapest way to do it at this point is to hire someone to sit in Antarctica all day long and browse the websites and then let us know if something "seems slow". I have always been frustrated over the subjective-ness of it all, as well as the many moving parts outside my control: end point, internet connection speed, provider, etc.

Level 14

I agree.  And unfortunately the government is way behind.  They are really lacking in this area.  With all the attention that the ObamaCare website stuff got, you would like that user-experience would become a focal point.

Level 14

I have an app that tracks my state and federal representatives/senators and how the vote.  It also allows for feedback to our elected officials on whether we agree with their vote or not.

Level 14

network defender​ How often do you use the app... and do you ever respond?

From the perspective of a part time local government person:

As a local elected official (board of selectman (town council for those outside of New England)) I have an FB page and twitter account. Additionally, I have to monitor the local community page to put out brush fires started by those who are not informed or mis-informed. Combine that with around 8-10 departmental FB pages for the town and making we are properly answering and monitoring, our plate is full. In a small town (8700 population) we rely on quick posts to the main FB page and an email blast... beyond that.....

The timing of your article is perfect as our board is looking at this very issue. We want to increase interest..... Film at 11....

Level 14

I get alerts on my phone when there was a vote, state or federal.  I can choose to agree or disagree, and then choose whether or not to respond.  Lately, I have received polls from some reps.  It is call Vote Spotter.

Not only is government behind, but every vendor who makes items that are reviewed and approved by the FDA is WAY behind the curve.  Health care organizations are stuck with 802.11b devices cluttering up their SSIDs, with little end in sight.  Some of those medical scanning & monitoring devices are expected to last just like hard-wired boxes--ten to twenty years.  Ufda!

Level 14

I will download and check it out... thanks network defender​ !!!

Level 8

Our local municipality uses SeeClickFix to allow citizens to report various problems for city officials to then deal with and respond to via the application's email integration. The application even can function as a full work-order system on their servers, and it's all easily accessible from mobile devices for both the Government representatives and for the citizens submitting the reports of issues with photos, video, and geo-tagged locations. Acknowledgements, comments and updates can automatically send out emails to any interested party, including the original reporter, and anyone else who "follows" the issue. I set this system up for our local municipal electric utility to use and integrate with the already ongoing efforts of other city departments. You can see a basic overview of the project here: SeeClickFix for B.E.D. - Jason Baker - Spiceworks

Kudos to the city for adopting this forward-thinking technology... right?

The reality:

12 open, unacknowledged reports, only two from today, with the oldest going back to last July.

407 Acknowledged, but not resolved or closed, reports going back to December of 2012.

Many reports are closed with few or no comments added by the assigned staff.

Just to note, I emphasized the active, engaged, responsive management of this resource when training employees at the electric department, and they are one of the few diligent groups, acknowledging, commenting, and closing tickets promptly. Other city departments? Not so much.

What does that say about the user experience? How would it be to be one of those people who reported a problem, only to never hear back, despite an automated email system?

All the well-meaning adoption of forward-looking technology is worse than nothing if it's not used properly. This isn't necessarily an IT issue, but can some form of monitoring help create a culture of responsibility?

Level 14

Sounds like not all departments have management buy in.

Level 14

jbakervt​ I've seen SeeClickFix.... I love the concept and wish we could do it but it is a bit above what we can afford to do at this point. We have adopted a GIS system to monitor our roads and evaluate and analyze which streets need attention and what kind... and we are looking at ClearGOV to show people where their money is spent and how that stacks up against towns our size.... We actually do somehing developed by one of the board members but we want to expand on it.... We are slowly moving toward "new" technology! We'll get there.... I hope before I decide to move on....


thankfully at a progressive agency here

Level 21

goodzhere​ I couldn't agree with you more on your comment about the government being way behind.  I have had the opportunity to work with several different government entities and I continuously find myself amazed at how far behind they are in all facets of technology and the people running it don't seem to have a clue.  With that said, they are trying to do their job blindfolded with one hand tied behind their backs with all of the bureaucracy they need to deal with.  The worst part is how much money they spend to do so little!

Level 14

We do spend a lot of money to accomplish very little.

Level 14

And spend a lot of time getting nowhere

Level 14

By time the money is spent and the time is taken, it is 3 years later before it gets to the users and it is thus 3 years behind.  And I keep thinking that one day they will figure it out.  I just don't know if I will be around to see it.

Level 14

but press forward we will


I did a job with a federal agency and I was made aware of at least 3 completely separate Solarwinds installations in the building I was in.  It was pretty interesting to see how the different political and territorial boundaries were jamming up their ability to collaborate on monitoring.


unfortunately it happens in the real world too, but knowing how siloed government is, that is what I was expecting.

Level 14

I refer to those as rice bowls, and some government types are crazy protective over them.

Level 14

Actually was in Burlington over the weekend... checked the site while I was there... noticed the posts on sidewalks... experienced some similiar issues in the downtown area (Cherry/Bank/St. Paul).... I am ready to revisit... Thanks again.

Level 15

Good post.

I attended a seminar yesterday in which FBI Special Agent John Bonhage spoke about this exact topic.  His best advice:  if you see something that doesn't seem right, that just seems odd or off from what you'd expect, notify the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | Home ).

He said most of the time there's no issue, no problem, nothing wrong.  But they want to hear about those items that don't seem right to us.  Every time they investigate and DO find something wrong, they're grateful for the public's support.

Level 20

And use pki, crypto, and keep your CAC card handy!