Delivering digital public services that make an impact - Canadian Government Executive
Best PracticeDesignE-governmentTransformation
March 5, 2018

Delivering digital public services that make an impact

Governments that utilize a holistic set of five dimensions – Citizen Journey, Mobile, Design, Relevance and Relationship – will not only increase trust and engagement in government through an improved relationship but will also benefit from cost-effective digital service delivery.

The use of digital services in the day-to-day lives of most Canadians has quickly become the norm. Over 75 per cent of Canadians shop online, and 68 per cent of Canadians turn to online platforms for banking. These habits and expectations are increasingly common among brands and within the private sector, and as such, has a distinct impact on the expectation of private sector services.

Recognizing this change in consumer behaviour and expectation, governments around the world have made inroads, in recent years, to improve the digital services they offer. In Canada specifically, the establishment of the Canadian Digital Service, designed to work with federal departments to deliver tailored solutions to their respective problems on agile software development methods and design, has seen success in just one year of work. The development of the Impact Canada Challenge Platform was designed with citizens in mind and looks to improve engagement through design and content. The Canadian Revenue Agency saw almost 90 per cent of its returns filed online between February and May of 2017.

We can continue to build upon these important steps to offer a personalized digital experience that can deliver a powerful and efficient citizen engagement. Only with a focus on delivering a personal experience will it be possible for governments and citizens to fully realize the benefits of a digital transformation. One that can help repair citizen-government relationships, even at a time when trust in government is low.

Meeting citizen expectations

A new report, The Adobe Global Experience Benchmark Study, found that while governments are making adequate efforts at offering digital services they truly need, the majority of respondents believe that they currently receive varying levels of service from online government services. Governments around the world are falling short of citizens’ expectations of digital services. Ultimately, the poor delivery of these services could lead to a further loss of trust in the ability of governments to meet their needs.

Adobe’s study results indicate that governments are performing best on the more functional components of the digital services experience, such as infrastructure, IT, and the basic foundations of digital delivery. By contrast, governments are performing poorly on some of the more advanced and emotive components of experience. These are dimensions which demonstrate that the user’s needs, preferences, and views are important.

Creating effective citizen experiences

At a broad level, citizens want a simple, intuitive, and personalized experience that accommodates and understands their preferences.  As outlined in the report, governments that utilize a holistic set of five dimensions – Citizen Journey, Mobile, Design, Relevance and Relationship – will not only increase trust and engagement in government through an improved relationship but will also benefit from cost-effective digital service delivery.

  1. Citizen Journey

The Citizen Journey begins at the point where the citizen is ready to engage with the government and ends when their needs have been fulfilled. The ideal Citizen Journey is a seamless end-to-end experience, across channels and over time. Whether seeking information or completing a task, the process is consistent and coherent. These services could include, for example, submitting passport applications or submitting tax forms. Amongst all five dimensions, countries performed the highest on the citizen journey. However, there is a greater need to offer human guidance, when necessary, and improved functionality, such as saving an action to continue later.

Governments that implement a seamless Citizen Journey can reap the benefits of improved time efficiency, improved citizen understanding of public services, and greater citizen empowerment, while diminishing feelings of distance between the citizen and the establishment.

  1. Mobile

This dimension relates to the use of smartphones and tablets, as well as whether a particular service is optimized and responsive on and across these devices. This is critical for service accessibility. Notably, the study showed a significant portion of the respondents were accessing digital services via a mobile device, yet only half found these applications intuitive and easy to use. For many private sector mobile applications, ability to move seamlessly between multiple channels is fast becoming a baseline for up-to-date online experiences. As citizens trend towards increasing mobile device usage, the same will be expected of government.

  1. Design

Design is ranked second having the most positive impact on the overall citizen experience. It assesses the way in which the combined elements of graphics, visuals, and content impact the successful use of a service. A focus on aesthetics shouldn’t be dismissed as simply cosmetic. Design has explicit implications for government objectives. Design can directly impact functionality and accessibility, at times being the decisive factor between a citizen’s ability to complete a task online or not. Some of these aspects include, for example, the simplicity of options, minimized need to scroll within a page, or reduction of the number of clicks needed to find information. Moreover, at a time where people are engaging with information visually, Design can impact a citizen’s relationship and attitude toward governments – for better or for worse. Inconsistent visual identity can reflect poorly on an institution’s ability to provide services, resulting in a lack of investment or human capital.

  1. Relevance

Relevance is the extent to which an online experience is tailored to the user, either at the individual or group level. The Adobe study found Relevance is the least recognized dimension, yet is fundamental in driving overall experience. Perhaps, this is because a personalized, intuitive experience is now expected and expected to be undetectable, with information flowing seamlessly. In a society where people are used to personalized news, recommended items to purchase, and suggested videos to watch, they also expect a certain level of personalization from their engagement with government. Study respondents expressed a strong interest in government departments and agencies proactively suggesting related information and services to educate and inspire them, yet most were not receiving such a service.

Importantly, concerns about privacy and use of data can limit the desire for personalization. It is also critical that governments reassure citizens in a proactive and clear manner, that their personal data will be treated with care.

  1. Relationship

This dimension refers to how the experience of using a service affects the relationship between citizen and government. Like Relevance and Design, Relationship was critical to ensure a more positive experience, and yet governments across the board fared poorly compared to the functional dimensions of Customer Journey and Mobile.

Where Relationship is best optimized, governments are creating a meaningful dialogue with their citizens. They offer a diverse set of online experiences to reflect the different types of relationships that citizens want from their public services. Technology can help services move beyond pure transactions to ensure that users are involved in an ongoing relationship with the service provider. This gives citizens a sense of esteem and connection to their community and country and builds trust and creates advocates.

While many organizations have a web presence, simply being online is not enough. Attention must be paid to the dimensions that will create powerful digital experiences while developing a meaningful relationship between citizens and their governments.

Mike Marks is the Head of Marketing for Adobe Canada.

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