8 November 2013

Remaking government for the digital age

A forerunner in citizen-centered, digital government services, the UK continues to attract attention for its efforts to change the way that citizens and government interact. So what should tommorow’s government services look like?

The drive to deliver “digital by default” services is spurred by two separate but powerful forces. The first is the push for austerity: Limited budgets mean that government expenditure must be reduced across the board. Finding efficiencies by digitizing government services meets this first requirement. Simply put, a self-service digital channel is drastically less expensive than the same service being delivered face-to-face or by telephone, alongside the associated paperwork and processing. Secondly, citizens simply expect to find services online. When one’s banking, travel and insurance transactions are all screen-based, planning applications and parking permits make sense to be online too.

The UK-based Policy Exchange recently published a report which explores the current moves to digitize UK government services, and highlights the standard-bearer: GOV.UK. In their research, they uncovered existing, widespread inefficiencies, says report co-author Sarah Fink: “The Crown Prosecution Service prints one million sheets of paper a day. Two articulated trucks loaded with paperwork pull into the [motor vehicle licensing department] every day. Even if you complete a passport application form online, the Passport Office will print the form out and post it back to you to sign and send back.”

The resulting report, “Smaller, Better, Faster, Stronger : Remaking government for the digital age” formalizes their findings, and “[makes] …a series of recommendations around efficiency gains and digitising Whitehall, developing a total data approach to policymaking, and changing culture and attitudes in government.”

Although not directly cited in the report summary, the importance of maintaining a user- (citizen-)centered perspective must underlie all these activities, however. And this is the aspect of work such as this that draws our attention. In our extensive work with Dutch government clients, we never fail to keep the citizen in mind, as the end-user of their services.

Source: “How to remake government for the digital age” (Sarah Fink, British Politics and Policy Blog, London School of Economics).


Digital strategy (22), Public sector (9)

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