Open Government and Citizen Experience

The role of the government and the services it provides are a crucial part of society. From paying taxes to renewing a passport, to letting citizens know if a thunderstorm is on its way – the government plays an important role in our day-to-day lives.

With the rapid adoption of digital and internet technologies, citizens are now more informed than ever about government programs, services and policies.  In addition, citizens demand a superior experience from their governments and expect them to utilize and embrace the latest technology – just like what they would expect from major corporations in the private sector.

Accenture’s Citizen Survey showed a high correlation between public services’ use of digital channels and the overall satisfaction of their users.  Essentially, when governments provide digital services that meet citizens’ needs, the citizens’ overall satisfaction with public services tends to increase.

Despite governments moving towards improving the citizen experience, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Let’s examine some of the ways in which governments are making strides to revamp the citizen experience for the 21st century.

What do citizens want out of their digital experiences with the government?

The public sector often looks to the private sector for tech trends and operational strategies, picking and choosing ones that are applicable to them with the goal of assembling an efficient and cost-effective approach.  In fact, this approach has been a primary strategy for developing the citizen experience in the public arena.

Governments are actively seeking the characteristics of a top-tier customer experience, aiming to recreate this for their citizens. So, what are these characteristics?

  • Empowerment – the ability for citizens to perform the tasks they need to accomplish with maximum convenience, speed and ease.
  • Treat me as a Whole – citizens expect governments to break down the traditional silos, delivering services to them with more consolidated service access points (e.g. online) and with more common tools and experiences from service to service.
  • The ability to provide a relevant experience by providing flexible systems that allow each citizen to interact in their preferred ways.
  • Creating channel convenience and utilizing responsive design, in the same ways that have swept the worlds of retail and consumer services in recent years. With the proliferation of smartphones, companies in the private sector are facilitating experiences that work well between various devices and brick-and-mortar settings.  In turn, governments are emulating this seamless experience for their citizens, delivering services to citizens in their preferred channel.

What are governments doing to deliver exceptional citizen experiences?

To meet the increasing demands of their citizens, government organizations around the world are strategizing in new ways when it comes to delivering citizen experiences. While every country takes its own approach, there are a few themes that are common in many areas of the world:

1. Open Government:

The Open Government Partnership is leading the charge for a large consortium of countries, with the “ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive”.

Throughout North America, Europe, and Australia, governments are striving to promote more visibility into the processes that make up their operations, as well as offering insight into the capital allocations they make.

2. Country-based directives:

Open Government has different interpretations and approaches from one country to the next. Generally, government organizations are looking to share more information with the public in an open, accessible manner. Modernized systems that increase availability include virtual libraries and centralized platforms for all citizens.

Governments have started incorporating technology into their plans, highlighting how important it is in meeting their objective of open governance.  Below is a list of countries and their open government strategies:

An important part of the open government initiative is the transparency of the results, and the ability to demonstrate that tax dollars are being well-spent. One of the best ways that a government can do this in the 21st Century is by digitizing; making information public and easily-accessible for its citizens. As a result, many governments have put in place executive orders supporting digital government strategies.

An example of digital government strategy can be found in the US, which complements several initiatives aimed at building a 21st-century government that works better for the American people. These include references to various executive orders from streamlining service delivery and improving customer service, to delivering an efficient, effective and accountable government.

When reviewing these executive orders, an important message of performance measurement is highlighted, stressing the importance of budgets being well-spent to support the needs of society.  Essentially, performance measurement is defined in these executive orders to include:

  • Asking citizens for feedback
  • Establishing service standards
  • Tracking performance against those service standards
  • Creating industry benchmarks

3. Getting practical – One Government:

Governments are now implementing concrete standards for their digital strategies and ensuring that performance management is included in any citizen-centric program. While guidelines for web accessibility vary from one country to the next, the agenda remains the same: develop better citizen experiences.

Below are examples of different government digital standards, which include recommendations for web standards:

Many countries are striving to incorporate best practices that focus on user experience, and are also emphasizing citizen-centric agendas for government programs and digital content, such as collecting digital analytics.  Citizens are expecting to interact with government in a more consolidated fashion.  Government is responding by consolidating government services into fewer access points (e.g. consolidated websites, service offices, call centres) and by improving usability to compare with private sector organizations.

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