Public institutions anticipate a high level of participation and engagement with new communications technologies, but not by all residents

Local governments note that they must keep pace with technology, both internally and for delivering services, based on the volume of services they provide and the level at which their residents and businesses are adept at using communications technology to access these services. Multnomah County focus group participants noted they can’t be on the “bleeding edge” of technology but must be at or near the “leading edge” while providing services online, in-person and through written materials. Their perception, expressed also by the City of Portland and the City of Gresham focus group participants, is that they must keep up with new technology, including Smart Cities technologies, in order to serve their diverse population. The smaller cities of Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village expressed the need for similar capabilities and to invest in new technology because they perceive that some residents and businesses will demand that. However, they also have to be prepared to provide services in-person for those that aren’t online or digitally literate. 

Telemedicine applications are certainly more commonplace now due to the COVID-19 pandemic than in the past. Even prior to the pandemic, two interviewees from Oregon Health Sciences University said their field anticipates telemedicine will continue to increase to better serve an aging population, with not only remote telehealth service, but monitoring services related to “aging in place”. Since more people have now experienced telehealth and telemedicine services because of stay-at-home order and the focus of the medical community largely on response to COVID-19, it’s more likely both patients and health professionals have become more comfortable and that for many telemedicine and telehealth service use will rise based on convenience, lower cost, and a high degree of accessibility. However, for those that lack Internet access and/or appropriate devices, telehealth services will remain a challenge. 

 Esper House notes that many underserved populations already experience issues with current communications technologies and are likely to experience as much or more difficulty with new technologies, and don’t necessarily see themselves taking advantage of them. For example, “schools and organizations that serve communities of color see communication technology challenges among families, which can affect educational and later professional growth and development. These challenges include prohibitive cost of accessing tools, unstable life circumstances, lack of knowledge about support and services, and lack of role models or leaders of color in technology industries”. Accordingly, these types of challenges need to be overcome first for current communications technologies. At least in some part, new communications technologies will only exacerbate the problem and expand the list of non-adopted technologies.