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Is Government Prepared for Mobile User Expectations?


Orange County, California - Winter 2013.

I was aiming for the 55 Beach Cities exit when apparently I used the Fast Pass lane (FasTrack® by The Toll Roads®). The 55 exit is a left-lane route and I’m new to that road, so it’s no surprise that this would happen. Here in Northern California, it’s pretty clear where you need a Fast Pass because you have to really move to get into that pathway.


Weeks later, I was hit with a paper ticket in the mail—but it arrived before I even got home, and that was long after the three-day grace period. I was confused and frustrated – I had stopped and paid the fee but apparently in the wrong section. Thanks to a punitive fine that I wasn’t aware of previously, suddenly my $3.25 ticket skyrocketed to $103.25.


Transportation is a critical mass necessity and given this, government services really needs to connect with its customers (taxpayers), not only to create a more positive experience (or improve a negative experience), but to keep up with the demand and pace of technology innovation. My minimum expectations as a taxpayer and mobile/geo consumer are that digital services are available and accessible—especially if there’s an issue with offline communication. And to be fair to The Toll Roads, they do provide a mobile app to people who have already signed up for a FasTrack®pass. I also see progress in another key area of transportation: parking. I am now seeing a few parking areas that accept mobile payments and notifications, and I assume that is a nationwide trend.


Going forward, I hope that transportation vendors will put in place a technology strategy that allows people like me to connect with their services through an app—maybe a geo-notification system based app—or, heck, even email with an opt-in for mobile notification. Even more forward thinking, this geo-based app could notify me that I’m in a toll zone that would violate the FasTrack rules.  I did pay the toll, but apparently in the wrong lane.

These kinds of goals would most likely require five strategic pieces:

  1. People and process must align with business objectives (or taxpayer objectives).
  2. Digital business services and support must be in place to deliver the needed technology.
  3. Data governance would review permission settings.
  4. Vendors would move to cloud-based technology and mobile-first initiatives, if not there already.
  5. Digital marketing channels would ensure participation.


Don’t forget a sprinkle of all-around desire to make this change within the existing administration. If this technology were in place, I’d be more than happy to pay that original toll because the agency would have considered its responsibility to notify me, and to give me convenient options to pay. And since we all pay for these kinds of services (via tolls and taxes), I’m sure I’m not the only person who would like to be notified of my transgression in a timely manner, rather than get the surprise huge bill. The bill made me feel like the agency was profiting from its lack of requirement to notify me (to put it nicely).


Convenience and organization are two of the reasons I love emerging technology. With technology, our lives improve. So when technology isn’t there for standard services, it can cause an unexpectedly miserable experience. 


Is asking for change from public services unreasonable, especially if we pay for them? How can these kinds of services meet our needs and expectations? Can public services fully embrace the app and when will they reimagine the business models required to pull this off?


Your thoughts? Do you have a favorite government digital services app?

Care to get involved? I found this handy site for those who want to make a difference in our government digital services.



Dena Lawless is a mobile mom, an emerging technology fan, early adopter of twitter and LinkedIn, an ex-moz, and a BMC employee managing content strategy. She is purely social, loves hiking, good music, tennis, and 60% dark chocolate.

Post-script: Shortly after writing this blog, I received yet another ticket for roughly the same amount, no warning or ability to pay the $3.25 and this time, I was sure to look everywhere to avoid I paid at the toll booth.  There was an "offer" within the ticket to use my fine to 'purchase a FasTrack pass.' I thought this to be a rather blatant way to force people to buy FasTrack passes.