The role of municipal digital services in advancing rural resilience

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Government Information Quarterly


Community resilience refers to collective efforts to help improve response and recovery for the entire community in response to disasters. Municipalities that provide information and services to residents through digital platforms have more options for meeting citizen needs during crises. In this study, we examine the provision of digital services by rural municipalities in Maine, USA during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on an inventory of 100 municipal websites and interviews with 20 municipal officials, we assessed the prevalence of 20 digital services, associations between municipality characteristics and digital services, and factors that spur changes in digital services. We discovered that many rural communities use digital platforms, and provide digital information, digital transactions and opportunities for digital democracy. While we found positive associations between greater levels of digital services, larger community populations, and more representative forms of government, we learned that a range of technological and cultural barriers also determine the degree to which a municipality engages with and adapts their digital services. Our findings establish a link between municipal digital services and rural resilience, confirm prior trends observed in larger and more urban local governments, and encourage future work on relatively under-studied rural areas.


Vanessa R. Levesque is an assistant professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Southern Maine. Her research applies a sustainability science perspective to understanding how collaborative efforts to address challenges can spur action in rural areas. She often partners with nonacademic entities to address pressing issues and help advance local government community resilience.