13 February 2013
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Service design in government: “e-gov” initiatives in the USA

With roughly five times the population as the UK, the USA has a challenge cut out for itself when it attempts to rethink the way its government works. A recent push by the Obama administration has made digital services a priority; the challenge now lays in its implementation.

This is the second post in a three-part series on service design in government, surveying both developments overseas and Informaat’s thinking and activities on this topic.

In mid-2012, the White House released a paper detailing an ambitious strategy to improve the way that government services its citizenry. It was built around three strategic objectives:

  1. “Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.”
  2. “Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.”
  3. “Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our Nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.”

In turn these objectives are driven by four principles: An “Information-Centric” approach , a “Shared Platform” approach, a “Customer-Centric” approach, and platform of “Security and Privacy”.

While all four principles seem common-sense – whether for application in government or enterprise settings – one resonates with us specifically: Customer centricity.

When compared to the UK, the USA has seen a slower recognition and adoption of service design in all settings. Correspondingly, “service design” as a term is glaringly absent, even if its practice might effectively be active here.

The most visible early result of this strategy is the creation of the “Digital Services Innovation Center”, staffed by people from the General Services Administration, which is broadly responsible for supporting the administration of federal government. It is a small group of people whose aim is to drive the strategic agenda laid out in last year’s strategy announcement by finding and working with others throughout government that have the ability to implement change.

Whether or not service design becomes cited as an activity in these endeavors remains to be seen, but with the scope as broad and ambitious as it is – and with customer thinking at its heart – it promises to be an interesting activity to follow.

And although service design-specific guidelines don’t exist in the same way as for the UK, the GSA produces guidelines for other disciplines instead. They cover both high-level issues (content strategy, and open content goals), as well as more detailed, practical advice.

Here are links to sources mentioned above:

E-government and digital services strategy paper: “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People” [whitehouse.gov]

Digital Services Innovation Center” [gsa.gov]

“Content Strategy” guidelines [howto.gov]

Guidelines for Improving Digital Services and Customer Experience” [howto.gov]

Other posts in this trilogy on service design in government are “UK paves the way” and “A systematic approach to designing digital government“.

Customer experience (67), Digital strategy (22), Service design (41)