3 steps to making IT a facilitator of proactive government

Government services have a reputation for being slow and clunky and mostly paper-based. But the advent of mobile phones, analytics and agile development now makes it possible to more proactively deliver easy-to-use digital services – both for citizens and, on the back-end, for government employees.

I’ve found that these kind of citizen-centric services all count on IT functioning as the enabler. In the UK, healthcare has been run and managed as a government service for several years. What about creating an app that lets a hospital notify Meals on Wheels when I leave the hospital and need meals for a few weeks before I’m back on my feet? This same app could notify a taxi service that I need a ride home from the hospital while also arranging any community care required at home and any follow-up, out-patient appointments and taxi bookings to and from.

Changing to a services-based digital model requires that government officials understand the three forces driving digital transformation: what, why and how.

  1. What refers to a holistic government service with a positive user experience where technology serves as an enabler. It consists of two sets of users: the citizens who are recipients of the services and the government employees who use the digital apps to provide services. In some cases, as with tax applications, citizens use the apps on their computers or smartphones. In other cases, government employees set up discrete services for citizens to consume or communicate with the public via a chat application. Also, technology might facilitate services more invisibly, for example, it could automatically notify next of kin and an employer when a person gets admitted to emergency care following a major accident. Like many fellow citizens, I believe that these apps function as a good service when unexpected things happen. It’s not all about what we can see on a screen, it’s mainly about the outcome, something that’s often physical.
  2. Why focuses on the reason the digital service has been deployed in the first place. In the commercial world, the company aims to make buying easy for the consumer so they can sell more units and deliver a satisfying customer experience to encourage return business and brand loyalty. In the government, there’s often a political motivation, such as helping to fulfill a government policy by making receiving healthcare services easier for us or hitting performance and efficiency targets. Governments could also just want to make using government services easier for citizens. When I move to a new area, I shouldn’t have to supply national and local agencies with all my data multiple times for different services. Once I register with an agency the first time for a service, other agencies – even within other jurisdictions — should have my basic information like name, home address and city. Governments may also want to take advantage of data analytics and management – they can use existing data along with data from digital services to tailor citizen services and even predict citizen circumstances and service needs.
  3. How the digital services get deployed starts with user research. Any time a government plans a new digital service, they should identify the users and research them so they can learn more about who they are, what their needs are and how existing processes work. But user research doesn’t end with the deployment of a new service. It’s ongoing and can perpetually improve and adjust the service to our often rapidly changing needs. It’s similar to the way Amazon asks for reviews of the products consumers buy online — if I’m using a new mobile service to apply for a driver’s license, for instance, feedback either from me or from analytics data can drive any of the new features the agency rolls out in the future.

The ultimate goal: Create a government that can anticipate the needs of its citizens. When that happens, families are helped with the right services — before children get left with nobody to take care of them if a single parent gets sick or in an accident. Or before an elderly person gets stuck at the hospital without a ride home. These more proactive services can transform government into an enabler as opposed to the obstacle. It’s the crux of what we mean by digital transformation.

Edward Poyntz-Wright headshotEdward Poyntz-Wright is an Account Delivery Lead for DXC Technology focused on the UK Government Digital Frameworks. Ed has held delivery roles from developer, test lead, test and delivery management and has also operated as Chief Technologist for the DXC Applications business. Recently, he has been a leader in the setup of DXC UK’s ground-breaking digital programme.

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