What does the next generation of digital public services need to deliver?

June 11, 2019

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by Stephen Davies UK Director

Email +44 (0) 7483417111

One of the strong messages coming out of our Future of Government research programme is that, in the public’s opinion, a fairer society means helping to ensure that people who are most in need get access to the public services and resources they rely on.

In April we held a ‘pop-up community’ with Opinium which brought together thirty people, broadly representative of the public across the UK.  When asked to score their interactions with public services, examples where government is looking to collect revenue from citizens such as to pay for council tax or to tax a car were seen as fast and easy to complete. On the other hand, examples where people need to apply for benefits or start court proceedings were seen as difficult and slow to interact with.

Over the past fifteen years I have been involved with developing digital public services globally and I have seen first hand that the need to reduce the cost of public service operations and ensure that revenue has been collected can often be a primary driver behind the initiative.  

There are also great examples of where services are being transformed to become more citizen-centric, for example the digital transformation of HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which PwC is supporting. Yet there’s plenty of potential to take this agenda further forward, for example by using technologies such as AI technology to help the public navigate and access the right government services for them, particularly where responsibility for those services sits across a number of government departments.

To help bridge the inequalities in our society, we must further look to deploy these technologies to support citizens to make informed choices and access the various public services and benefits to which they may be entitled.

This means moving beyond the digitalisation of the traditional paper forms towards a new breed of digital public services (bringing together technology innovation and human insight), designed around the needs of citizens and built around five core values:

  • Intelligent - using AI to proactively drive early interventions to support the most vulnerable in society.
  • Informed - joining up data to support government to make better decisions and provide more efficient and effective services to those most in need.
  • Interactive - moving beyond online forms to provide richer, more valuable interactions with citizens, helping them navigate and providing them with options for service delivery.
  • Integrated - breaking down traditional boundaries between government departments to create interactions with citizens in ways that makes sense to them.
  • Identity secured - none of this will truly work without assuring a secured digital identity for all citizens, to ensure the trust is there to provide the foundation for digital public services.

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Delivering this agenda is not impossible as a number of examples around the world have proven. What it will take is significant collective effort with cross government collaboration required. The forthcoming Spending Review is an ideal opportunity to take forward this thinking.

In subsequent blog posts I will explore how and where to start the journey to digital public services, drawing on innovations already taking place across the UK and globally, and with a focus on how we can use digital technology to help people access the services they need - and ensure the digitally excluded are not left behind.

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by Stephen Davies UK Director

Email +44 (0) 7483417111