Online public services and Design Thinking for governments

Posted on
July 4, 2021

The digital era has changed the expectations citizens have regarding the communication of public services and their engagement with government agencies.

‘Digital Citizenship’ is common place and this is a great opportunity for institutions to explore the benefits this online presence offers.

Most government agencies have moved their public services to digital platforms by applying technology to the exact same workflow they had earlier. They’ve replaced hard copies with emails and signatures with digital prints. However, Information Technologies don’t just improve the efficiency of governments; they also have the power to transform how governments work by redefining their engagement with citizens. With this outlook, they can expand the array of services that could be provided and implemented.

When it comes to online public services there are two different paths to building-up a strategy: Governments can either: Use stats, trends and quantitative surveys to measure and produce “reliable results”; or they can develop a deeper understanding of the basic needs of their consumers for a specific problem. With that focus, they may propose a solid solution that would satisfy those needs.

Two of the primary criteria of evaluation in any measurement or observation are:

  1. Does the same measurement process yield the same results?
  2. Do we measure what we intend to measure?

These two concepts are reliability and validity.

According to Roger Martin, author of “The Design of Business”, truly innovative organisations are those that have managed to balance the “reliability” of analytical thinking with the “validity” of abductive thinking. Many organisations often don’t find this balance between reliability and validity and choose only the reliable data to move on with their future implementations.

What is the relationship between reliability and validity? The two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

At best, we have a measure that has both high validity and high reliability. It yields consistent results in repeated application, and it accurately reflects what we hope to represent.

It is possible to have a measure that has a high reliability but low validity – one that is consistent in getting bad information or consistent in missing the mark. *It is also possible to have one that has low reliability and low validity – inconsistent and not on target.

Finally, it is not possible to have a measure that has low reliability and high validity – you can’t really get at what you want or what you’re interested in if your measure fluctuates wildly.” – click here for further reading.

Many online, government, public services are based on reliable data and pay no attention to the validity of the results ( 1st figure “reliable but not valid” ).

What can government agencies use to balance the reliability and validity when it comes to public services? The answer is waiting in Design Thinking and abductive reasoning.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO

Design thinking helps agencies to go back to the basics of what citizens need from their governments. It can be used to develop both reliable and valid online public services that can satisfy their needs.

If you are not familiar with this term, I recommend you watch this documentary which explores the idea of “design thinking”.

The documentary Design & Thinking is produced by Muris Media, in collaboration with Taipei Design Center U.S.

To finish this article, I’ll share a demonstration of the Design Thinking process concerning the following question:

As Government accelerates towards a world of public services that are digital by default, is this going to deliver the kind of digital services that move the public with them?

To find out, thinkpublic partnered with Consumer Focus (UK) to undertake detailed research into some of the fundamental questions and issues that users of digital public services are interested in. The findings have been published in the Manifesto for Online Public Services, which sets out simple guiding principles to be placed at the heart of online service design.

The research and manifesto are aimed at public service providers, policy makers and organisations from other sectors who offer online public services. It helps bring the voice of the consumer into their design processes and to ensure that their services are more effective in meeting users’ needs.

Based on the views of 149 people from different parts of Britain, this video summarises what consumers want from the future of online public services.

The Online Public Services Manifesto;

  • We want online public services that are easy to understand and use.
  • We want online public services that look clear and simple.
  • We want online public services that are more transparent.
  • We want online public services to help us get on with the rest of our lives.
  • We want online public services that allow us control of our online identities and our personal data and to still get to most out of public services.
  • We want online public services that are provided by whoever’s going to do the best job.
  • We want online public services that allow us to easily register our opinion on any public service and the local and central government agencies responsible for them.
  • We want online public services that support us to make a contribution to public services and government.

What do you think about Design Thinking? In what way government agencies use this approach for their public services? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Posted on
June 14, 2021