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Transforming Government: Making Sure We Put Citizens First

Account Manager

June 05, 2023

Valtech co-hosted the Citizen Experience discussion at the Government Transformation Summit recently. It was a day of stimulating idea exchange, bringing together Civil Service Digital, Data and Technology leaders with their US, Canadian, Australian and European counterparts in a unique discussion-driven conference format.

With six sessions over the course of the day, there was some deep discussion of transformation in the public sector. We’ve seen time and time again that putting the user first and taking the time to really understand what the full breadth of the user base needs delivers better services that more effectively realise policy intent. And we feel a sense of duty and responsibility to make sure users’ voices are heard. I’ve picked out some of the highlights from discussions through the day.

Are we measuring the right things?

The success of a digital service is often measured by rates like digital take up, completion rate and cost per transaction. This is a great way of measuring the effectiveness of the service and the efficiencies that are being realised. However, how well does it measure how policy intent is being realised? For example, let’s consider Job Seekers Allowance. Should we be monitoring how well it’s supporting people getting back into work as well as how easily it can be applied for.

Shifting sands – measuring progress over the longer term.

How do we measure long term progress when policy outcomes can change focus with the change of government? Some long-term thinking and high-level objectives might help, perhaps extending out the Digital and Data Strategy for 2025 to 2030 or 2035. While policies change, certain objectives are less likely to. For example, preventing reoffending is almost certainly going to be seen as positive and important by any government.

Actually, let’s boil the ocean.

While that might sound both expensive and unachievable, the view at the event was that it’s actually good to start by thinking big. That way, we don’t narrow our thinking or exclude possibilities before we even start. Considering at a high level how we might boil the ocean and then using research to guide us to the areas we need to focus on is a great way of ensuring we understand the whole user problem and design services so they are adaptable to what might change downstream.

Why aren’t more people worried about data bias?

As one might expect, you cannot go to a conference right now without AI and Chat GPT coming up in conversation! What was distinctly absent from the presentations was much mention of data bias. This is a serious issue that risks being magnified by AI. We ran a webinar on this important subject last year, which you can read about here in our insight on it

From a blocker to an enabler.

Public services that are designed to put the user first are more likely to be seen as an enabler rather than a blocker. If the service is slow and cumbersome, users will remember the negative experience and may abandon their application journey altogether with frustration. If the service is slick and efficient, users can benefit from the services they are entitled to more quickly and feel enabled.

Build on existing research.

While thoroughly understanding the user base and their needs is vitally important, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. If there is credible existing research, we should establish its relevance (and of course ask questions about any potential data bias). We can then focus on areas that need validation and any gaps that need completely new research. This frees up valuable time for accessing the harder to reach groups of users. For example, those who are not generally online or don’t want to engage with government. We’ve found that engaging through charities and specialist groups effective and worth the investment of time to make sure we’re not limiting engagement to those who respond to online surveys.

If you’d like to know more about our experiences putting the users first, we’d be pleased to offer a complimentary workshop where we can share key learnings from the many public facing digital services we’ve built for government – including our work transforming the award winning Blue Badge Digital Service.



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