At the top is the delivery and performance committee (DaPCo), that assesses the digital components of policy proposals to ensure seamless service.29 Beneath DaPCo, sit senior officials of the customer and digital council, which oversees life event journeys in NSW and ensures they align with the digital strategy and other priorities of the state. The council also acts as a first-level approver for funding.
Underneath the customer and digital council, each life event has a “journey advisory board” (JAB). Each JAB includes representatives from relevant government agencies and NGOs. Each board acts as custodian of a life journey, ensures user centricity, assigns responsibility and prioritizes journey improvement.30 By engaging multiple agencies and assigning responsibility to relevant agencies and service providers, the governance model creates a sense of ownership and collaboration to improve outcomes for the citizens.31
The bulk of work on Singapore’s LifeSG app was driven by the Public Service Division (PSD) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Both organizations cochaired the operations committee of LifeSG, comprising senior leaders from 15 different agencies.32 PSD’s Innovation Lab established a program office made up of officers seconded from participating agencies to manage the project.33 Such cross-agency governance model has enabled Singapore to offer more than 70 services on the app.34
Incentivize agencies to work together through shared funding
The public sector has long experimented with shared funding models to overcome the challenge of shared agency responsibilities. In June 2020, the NSW government announced an investment of a record US$1.6 billion in its Digital Restart Fund over three years.35 In June 2021, the fund was topped up with an additional US$500 million, extending it to 2024.36 The fund is designed to accelerate whole-of-government digital transformation and funds projects at multiple agencies, including life event projects, digital assets used by multiple agencies, modernizing legacy systems, and building workforce capability by upskilling NSW government employees.37
New Zealand’s Better Public Services Seed Fund covered initial funding of US$1 million for SmartStart. The team learned that defining ownership of the life event at an early stage is essential. New Zealand earmarked US$2.5 million annually for its Department of Internal Affairs to maintain SmartStart and other life event projects over four years beginning in fiscal 2021, matching New Zealand’s four-year planning cycle. Dependable funding for four years helped the team plan its resource needs for ongoing development and operational support in advance.38 A government innovation fund was also made available for agencies to bid for money to test whether there was viability in establishing new life event services.
While New Zealand and NSW had dedicated funds, grants can also be used to build life event programs. Eventually, however, such programs need reliable, regular funding streams.
Determine the right data-sharing and technology model
Technological innovations can help surmount the challenges to data-sharing across platforms. In Estonia, a unique digital ID allows each citizen to interact with government electronically though a single portal, instead of re-registering with multiple passwords for multiple agencies—or by standing in line and trading mail.
In Karnataka, India, the state’s ability to share data based on digital identity made it possible for low-income families to receive pension benefits without much effort. The digital ID enables linking of additional information on income, tax due, tax credits, and bank accounts, so that when an individual pays taxes, she can access the data and file a tax return quickly and easily. Similarly, based on digital ID, and with an individual’s consent, tax authorities can securely share such data across departments to ascertain program eligibility for the unemployed. The ability to share personal data swiftly, securely, and with users’ consent is vital to life event service delivery.
Emerging data platforms can facilitate scalable, interoperable exchange of data—exactly what life event-centered services require. Data exchanges used for sharing personal data should ensure confidentiality (only authorized parties access data), integrity (data is temper proof), and interoperability (all parties should be able to access irrespective of their technical architecture).39
Technically, data exchanges can be classified as federated, centralized, or blended. In a federated exchange, participating agencies retain control over their data and respond to data requests from other agencies. In a centralized exchange, an authority collects information from all participating agencies and hosts the data on a central platform. In a blended exchange, some data is hosted on a central system and some is accessed through queries to participating agencies.40 Estonia and New Zealand both use federated systems to exchange data.
New Zealand also employs “microservices,” a form of data organization that breaks down apps into smaller segments of code and allows information exchange through a shared application programming interface (API). This allows SmartStart to be flexible and scalable and to integrate with other government services as needed.41
Australia uses APIs to exchange information on deaths by coordinating data exchange across government agencies and various private sector organizations.42 The Australia Death Notification Service (ADNS) allows users to enter information about the deceased and then verifies it against the Australian Death Check, an API-based system that interacts with death registration data recorded by Australian state and territory registries. Once the data is validated, ADNS sends a notification to the institutions and organizations chosen by the notifier, which can include government agencies, banks, insurance carriers, pension and retirement institutions, and utilities.43
Prioritize privacy and data security
Data security is constantly evolving, as is cybercrime. No one, least of all government agencies entrusted with citizens’ personal information, can afford to “set it and forget it” once a system is built. With the understanding that agile, iterative approaches are essential for digital security, several innovations may be particularly useful for the life event model. Finland, for example, is developing digital identities that can share personal information securely and selectively. Instead of flashing a driver’s license—and address—at a bouncer, for instance, a digital ID can just affirm the user is 18.44 The underlying technology is widely applicable for privacy. Such exchange protocols protect the privacy of the user, allowing respective owners of data to retain their control and seamlessly share data through interoperable systems.
Australian officials hope to develop a similar system to securely request proof of income.45 Currently, they point citizens to the income form they need. At a more mature stage, a secure message could verify that an applicant qualifies without sending sensitive data at all. Applicants wouldn’t need to expose private banking information to multiple agencies and eyeballs. “Everyone that starts from the premise that you can only get better services if you share data,” explains Pia Andrews, “is actually missing the bigger opportunity to not share data.”46
Prioritize user trust
Trust is essential to any program that asks citizens to submit their private data and let government agencies share it. Such trust must be earned. Clare Toufexis of New Zealand’s SmartStart says that an open, transparent process helps citizens feel safe in sharing their data with the government. “People are really comfortable sharing their data as long as you can show them that you’re keeping it safe, and that there’s benefit in it for them,” she says. About 98% of SmartStart users consented to share their information for at least two services.
Clarifying which government agencies access citizen data also can enhance citizen trust. Estonian citizens can see which agencies or officials have accessed their information and have the right to challenge any use of it.47
A better customer experience also can enhance trust. A 2021 Deloitte survey found that individuals who are pleased with a state governments’ digital services also tend to rate the state highly in measures of overall trust.48 Respondents rate state and local agencies high on trust if they think that state governments’ digital services are easy to use, that governments’ web-based services help them accomplish what they need, and that the state government safeguards their data well.49 “If you design services that prioritize a dignified and delightful experience, you’ll have a better chance to put citizens in greater control of their relationship with government, which would improve public trust and confidence in public institutions,” says Pia Andrews.
Similarly, according to Forrester Research, for each one-point increase in a government department’s customer experience ranking, 2.8% more customers will trust it.50 The US federal government’s vision for life experiences recognizes this, stating that the organizing framework requires a new model of service delivery that solves problems within and across agencies and levels of government and increases trust in government.51
Giving citizens the service and simplicity they deserve
Converging ideas about customer experience meet in life event service delivery. Technology can facilitate seamless, anticipatory service. The private sector has embraced customer-centric models; there’s no reason why citizens shouldn’t expect this level of service from their governments.
Adopting life event-based services can enable government to meet citizens’ needs more holistically, improve their quality of life, and rebuild trust in government institutions.
While it’s easy to get lost in the weeds while changing service delivery models, leaders should step back and remember how each project improves life events for its users. Government should serve the needs of citizens, not government. Life event service delivery rebuilds citizens’ experience around that principle.