Every one of us now expects excellent customer service wherever we go – be it at our local supermarket, on a banking app or when buying something online. Personalised experiences are also customary, from companies remembering our personal details on return visits or receiving a one-time SMS code when we forget our password.
This is largely due to a recent heightened focus and investment into improving customer experience across various sectors, and government services should be no exception.
If citizens cannot connect to the appropriate government portal as easily as they can to Facebook or LinkedIn, or they cannot make a routine payment as seamlessly as Amazon’s ‘1-Click’, they will leave frustrated.
What sits behind this is seamless, synced experiences powered by a single customer view. For example, when someone registers a driver licence it’s possible to use their details in other helpful ways, such as pre-filling future government forms or sending them a helpful SMS reminder to renew their car registration.
This is applicable for all government services. From registering a birth to applying for government support, these moments in life should not be a burden. As Stuart Robert has said in recent weeks, getting assistance should be simple. Meaning government systems should be helpful and intuitive, centred around transparent processes that respect people’s time and circumstances.
Even more so when something like COVID-19 or the devastating bushfires hits – the ripple effect is huge and those affected should not need to battle any further problems.
Mr Roberts confirmed that government is “well under way” to enabling a personalised citizen experience and providing access to information and services in one place, across all Government levels and structures.
There has been a huge amount of work completed so far, to the extent that the United Nations ranked Australia second top in their 2018 E-Government Development Index, which assesses governments’ ability to deliver public services digitally.
Technology is at the core of this, enhancing the use of citizen data and enabling the execution of legislative changes with greater agility and speed.
Leveraging citizen data
This concept of a singular view of a citizen is not entirely new to government services. Sharing of data between departments, agencies and third parties is becoming more prevalent – examples being the ATO pre-filling PAYG data in tax forms or data sharing with the National Disability Insurance Agency. However, there is more that can be done to help deliver the high-quality experience citizens expect.
For example, the ability to share and use household fire risk data could help improve bushfire response effectiveness and aid in the design of bushfire prevention. Or take COVID-19 – imagine if the spread could have been accurately tracked from the very beginning by data sharing between immigration, airlines, states and councils.
While it did happen eventually, more nimble systems could have increased the agility of our response to the virus.
Bringing this ability to share unified, accurate data together with a more agile approach to updating policy is the key to successfully improving citizen experience.
Implementing legislative changes to policy can be rather complex, convoluted and disjointed. The main challenge government faces is the speed at which changes can be made to existing or legacy systems.
This often requires adjusting the underlying process, logic and technology powering the system, and tight collaboration between departments and its partners. It also calls for robust testing and management of policy change impact on these underlying processes and technologies.
The best route forward is a modular approach. Think of it is as building blocks of underlying rules and logic that make up the policy.
Take age pension entitlements as an example. Consider rules (like rate tables or tests on income and assets) and their corresponding logic as the building blocks. Within a pension test process, these blocks can be combined to create or update part of the policy calculation or arrive at an entitlement value. Or indeed, create a new policy altogether.
By using this building block design method we’ll find that each time a policy change occurs it just means changing one logic (or one building block), not the full system.
Laying the foundation
This policy design requires the right foundation. It needs a hub of sorts that can enable these new ways of working, deliver the promise of policy agility and help drive collaboration.
This ‘Policy Hub’ could be a physical co-design lab, a collaborative multi-disciplinary team providing diverse views. It could be a set of agile design thinking methods and practices for co-designing policies.
It could be a technology capability, such as the Pega-platform Infosys is using to deploy a new entitlements calculation engine across Services Australia. Something that’s soon to be repurposed for Aged Care, Veterans income support and healthcare services, demonstrating the benefits of this more agile system.
In any form, it requires collaboration across government and industry to drive this future.
For citizens, it will not only instil more trust in Government services and improve their overall experience, but importantly will help them access the support they need quickly and easily. For Government, there are long-term economic benefits by reducing friction and lowering operational costs and in a time where government spending is at an all-time high as a result of COVID-19, this is vital to aid in our recovery.