The Future of Digital Government: Building services so good that citizens want to use them


Panel - The Future of Digital Government

The Future of Digital Government:

Building services so good that citizens want to use them

On Wednesday 18th March, an audience of PICTFOR’s parliamentary and business membership gathered in the Macmillan Room to listen to a debate on The Future of Digital Government.  PICTFOR’s Vice-chair, Stephen Timms MP, chaired the panel discussion.

On the panel, the parliamentary perspective was ably provided by Lord Inglewood, Chair of the Lords Communications Committee, and Helen Goodman MP, Shadow Minister (DCMS). The industry view came from Adobe’s Peter Cummings, and EE’s Gerry McQuade. Further sector-expertise was supplied by Policy Exchange’s Head of Digital Government, Eddie Copeland.

Growing societal reliance on technology and the emergence of the UK as a global tech hub have combined with recent Government successes in the digital sphere, as exemplified by the new “” platform, to give renewed relevance to questions and expectations around the potential impact of digital Government. The panel explored the opportunities and pitfalls associated with the prospect of a more connected, personalised digital government experience and considered how services could be made so good that citizens want to use them.

Opening remarks were provided by Chi Onwurah MP, PICTFOR’s co-Chair and Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister currently authoring Labour’s Digital Government Review. The discussion began with an insightful commentary from Eddie Copeland on the need for digital to cease being a periphery issue and take a place at the heart of everything Government does. He signalled his admiration for the work of the Government Digital Service, but issued a plea to Whitehall to expand this kind of thinking across the board. Helen Goodman MP drew attention to the dangers of a digital divide, calling for more subtlety in the debate about “digital by default” and highlighting the importance of distinguishing between transactional and relational services.

The rapid development of ICT and the associated mass migration online increasingly means that everyday interactions are being replaced or replicated online, transforming the dynamic between people and the services, and the state, they utilise. Adobe’s Peter Cummings identified that there remains a stark contrast between the seamless ‘anytime anywhere’ user experience available in the private sector and the citizen’s relationship with Government. Discussing this ‘anytime anywhere’ user experience, Everything Everywhere’s Gerry McQuade provided some insightful industry commentary on the possibilities for digital Government services afforded by mobile technology.  Debate revolved around a key question; will digital Government of the future be able to reshape citizen’s relationship with government services to mirror the high quality, flexible experience found in the private sector?

The transition to digital Government represents a rare chance to reset the citizen/state dynamic for the better, in favour of a greater focus on the needs of ‘users’, providing a more personalised service with greater choice and flexibility. How can Government, equipped with the advantages of the digital age, learn to serve people like valued customers, bury the negative stereotype of services provision and build services so good that citizens want to use them?

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Photography by Paul Clarke

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