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Local government and e-commerce

You’ve seen it before: Credit card and utilities companies, banks and others urging consumers to “go green” by eliminating paper bills and statements and opting for electronic bill pay instead. Recent data insists that online bill pay—more broadly, e-commerce—is no longer just a trend, but a shift in the way consumers expect to handle their bills.

According to the Canadian Payments Association’s Annual Review 2010, online bill payments in Canada doubled in 2010, and show no signs of slowing down. According to the report, the value on online payments in
Canada nearly quadrupled in 2010, up to $542 million compared to $115 million in 2009…

So what does this mean for local government? In offering e-commerce solutions to constituents, city and provincial governments can leverage the shift to paperless while providing convenience in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Expanded accessibility—making it easier for community members to pay bills, purchase goods or services and more by moving the cashier’s window online. No longer are citizens limited by office hours, transportation, or certain types of payments.
  • Increased efficiency—making the process for payment consistent and streamlined, as well as somewhat automated to ensure that payments are made in a timely manner.
  • Decreased costs—fewer staff members processing payments in-person and by hand, along with the elimination of some paper bills and statements allowing for a reduction in both hard and soft costs.
  • New opportunity—integrating e-commerce solutions can often open a new door in what services and programs a city or province offers.

If your provincial or city government office hasn’t already, explore these options in e-commerce solutions…

Online bill pay
By and large, online bill pay just may be the most popular service that local government entities are currently exploring through e-commerce solutions. Encouraging constituents to pay everything from parking tickets to child support to taxes online to renewing and paying for professional license renewal, the root of this service is ease of use—for citizens and for government departments alike.

Online requests for products or services
Beyond bill pay, e-commerce solutions can enable a variety of forms that may or may not be associated with payment, but perhaps still with a user account. For instance, the Province of Quebec allows users to renew driver’s licenses on its website, as well as parking permits and vehicle registration. Some governments have taken online transactions even further and begun selling promotional items online. Opening an online storefront with logo’d items like T-shirts and travel mugs and more, your government website is providing a means to promote and perpetuate pride among constituents while creating a small source of earned income. A true win-win for everyone.

Information requests
The provincial government in Quebec also uses solutions to enable its residents to search for and purchase crash reports online to submit to insurance companies. Other provinces and cities also have enacted an online request for proposal (RFP) capability through e-commerce solutions to find qualified land surveyors, contractors and more. Create awareness of these unique and convenient online services by promoting them among community members.

The Government of Alberta has an Ombudsman website that is capable of processing complaints or grievances against government employees, medical professionals and law enforcement for review with the necessary boards. The Government of Ontario has a similar online complaints system. Make these links easy to find and clearly worded on the website, promote through direct mail and e-mail and consider distributing reminders, like stickers or pens emblazoned with direct URLs to these services, to those who come in to fill out paper complaints or grievances.

“Annual Review 2010.” Canadian Payments Association. Web.

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