Executive Director's Corner

Dave Wills

Dave Wills

A Brave New "Digital" World

To play off a well-known title, I might contend that “it is a brave new ‘digital’ world.”

Recently I was rummaging around in my home office looking for an item when I came across a pack- age of printed pictures from yesteryear. While I enjoyed looking at the photos, I asked myself, “Who prints pictures anymore?” Practically speaking, almost no one. Most of us now enjoy pictures on our smart phones, iPads, etc., without thinking much of the fact that those digital images are made possible by the strings of zeros and ones that constitute the digital environment we live in and utilize daily. 

The development of the digital world is still relatively new but has created monumental changes and portends even more in the days ahead. The question for county leaders is how they will respond to the changes, or better yet, prepare for them. 

The theme of this issue of Georgia County Government magazine is “Keeping Up in a Digital World.” As county commissioners and appointed staff know, local governments very often are responding to, rather than anticipating, issues. This is, in part, because the pace of change set by private enterprise can and often does eclipse the deliberative policy process required of local governments which must conduct most business in the public’s view. This suggests that county leaders should stay attuned to evolving developments, think broadly about policy implications, and be prepared to address changes. 

Just a few years ago no one in local government was discussing 5G and the effect upon local governments regarding private enterprise’s desired access to local rights-of-way. A few years ago, social media sites like Facebook were new fads seemingly without much impact on local governments, but today most county governments are utilizing the power of social media to communicate with citizens. Social media is now even considered a pillar of many local governments’ outreach and communication strategies.

A few years ago, consumers went to a physical store to shop, but online sales have grown exponentially, with seemingly no end in sight, bringing both positive and negative consequences. Digital might as well be interpreted as “disruptive,” for its development has certainly changed much about the way we live, work, and communicate. 

In this ever-evolving arena of digital considerations, each county will likely have a somewhat unique, perhaps even disparate, interest and concern. From the most populous counties, where access to broadband services and thus the digital world might be taken for granted, to rural communities that have limited access and thus limited opportunities, the challenges of “keeping up” will almost certainly have different meanings. But the one constant among counties is that all of them will be impacted in some manner, creating consequences, positive and/or negative. Will you, as an elected commissioner or appointed staff member be ready to deal with the ongoing evolution in this “brave new ‘digital’ world,” or will you be left behind? Keeping up is the better choice.