What texting 911 tells us about governance innovation

Innovation is the driving force of economic growth. However, most governments remain unable or unwilling to innovate. They operate with a decades old mentality which lowers living standards for their citizens.

Consider police departments. According to the FCC, “most consumers cannot reach 911 by sending a text message from their wireless phone.” So, ten years after texting is commonplace, most police departments do not have the capacity to respond to texts.

Responding to texts does not require thinking outside the box or large investment. It should be viewed as integrating a new technology in the provision of an expected service, such as using email instead of snail mail. The fact that ten years after the introduction of the technology, widespread adoption still does not exist suggests a failure of innovation in police departments.

Such failure is likely not restricted to just police departments. Amazon, for example, decided to test their drones in Canada because the FAA could not issue regulations quickly enough. People volunteer to 3d print prosthetic limbs because accepting pay would run afoul of the FDA.

However, police not accepting texts points to a more fundamental problem. Reacting to new technology at the pace of Silicon Valley is hard, but integrating new technology for customer service should not be. Government should be more responsive to the needs of the people.

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