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Digital for all

Digital by default: What if we build it and they can't come?

Our recent work in government outlines three citizen groups in relation to public sector digital services: those who will use the ‘digital by default’ services, those who won’t, and those who can’t.

In order to reflect how citizens of this country have increasingly taken advantage of the internet in their personal and business lives, the government committed in November 2012 to delivering its services primarily online. Cabinet Office’s policy objective of ‘Digital by Default’ envisages being able to offer an improved experience for citizens of government services, at a reduced cost to the public purse.

The Government’s Digital Strategy sets out how the government can make up to £1.2 billion worth of savings by 2015 by making everyday transactions digital.

However, in order for this vision to be realised, there is a need to ensure that these new digital services are actually used by citizens.

In a recent study conducted by YouGov on behalf of Deloitte Digital (Making Digital Default - understanding citizen attitudes), we found that as many as 78% of the surveyed population had already used an existing government digital service.

These citizens will engage, provided the offering is secure (75%), simple (70%), informative (68%) and saves time (68%) or money (66%).

Start with the basics

Four key areas should be examined when aspiring to drive citizens online:

  1. The online experience offered – the system designed should be so straightforward, intuitive and convenient to use, that those who can use it will choose to
  2. The messaging and promotion needed – a clear and targeted communication strategy, to raise awareness of the service and its benefits
  3. The support and infrastructure required to embed the change – the appropriate training, buy-in from senior management and organisational design to ensure the service is ‘fit for purpose’ within a suitably mature digital culture
  4. The measurement of the use of that online service – particularly in relation to its offline equivalent, in order to allow an ethos of continuous improvement

Defining assisted digital

Defining and identifying ‘genuine need’, as opposed to ‘perceived need’ on the part of the citizen, is a key part of the overall delivery of ‘Digital by Default’. With this in mind, three questions frame how an Assisted Digital provision could be applied:

  1. How is ‘genuine need’ defined?
  2. How is ‘genuine need’ identified in a cost effective and timely manner?
  3. How are those with a ‘genuine need’ best provided for?


Delivering Assisted Digital
Once the question of identification is resolved, what remains to be determined is what support those citizens who have a ‘genuine need’ should be provided with.

Two broad choices are available:

  • Short term solutions centred around ‘doing it for the citizen’, where the government service steps in and solves the problem directly by providing offline alternatives (either by face to face, telephony or paper). This might in some cases take place in the same interaction as the triage process. The public body may also consider sign-posting to other agencies who may be able to provide further support (e.g. basic IT training, Citizens’ Advice etc.)
  • Long term investment in education and infrastructure, helping drive digital adoption in situations where none was realistically possible

The successful delivery of an Assisted Digital service has the potential to provide support for those who really need it, in addition to satisfying government-wide agendas like ‘Digital by Default’. Furthermore, the benefits received from a successful Assisted Digital service can be far wider than initially aimed for. Increased digital adoption by the citizen, not only for the originally intended services but across a range of government services, is a realistic target – provided the experience is positive, and continues to improve in response to citizen's needs.

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"The signs are positive - but this will be no ordinary channel shift."

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