Analogues of service

The current edition of Government Computing magazine contains an interview with Kevin Carey of ATcare and chair of HumanITy and the RNIB.

The interview is a fascinating insight into what accessibility should be about by someone with a disability and experience of exclusion having become blind in early adulthood. Carey argues for server-based computing, perhaps what we’ll get with the “government cloud” (G-Cloud) of the future, but is currently delivered by the likes of MS Terminal Services and Citrix. Carey also pushes for greater use of SMS, which I can understand but as a delivery agent the progression of this is only stifled by the public’s frequest change of mobile phone numbers and unwillingness to provide them to goovernment agencies – perhaps they’re getting less shy?

My major agreement with Carey is on e-services and e-forms trying to replicate existing paper-based ones – the analogues of the title, and I agree with the need to simplify systems and change legislation to get over some of the current problems.

He’s also right about overloaded home pages and those with fast-moving Java applications – not very nice looking either!

If anybody has trouble getting a copy, since Kable don’t appear to do it electronically, email me and I’ll send a e-copy, if that’s not breaking too many laws?


2 Responses to Analogues of service

  1. Neville Higman says:

    I was very taken with this article too, particularly the second of these two paragraphs:

    ‘Carey is convinced that one of the problems with government e-services and digital systems is that they try to replicate analogue systems in a digital environment. For example, digitising a 36 page analogue form and expecting people to fill it out, resulting in “appalling” completion rates.

    ‘“That may mean simplifying the tax system, for instance, or the benefits system,” he suggests. “You may have to round up some benefits and tax bands for rough justice, but you would save so much money if you did it.”’

    That set me thinking.

    Imagine if the complexity of personal tax assessment was fixed by an upper limit on the number of questions that could be asked – particularly if that number was based on measures of completion rates and data cleanliness. It would force an outside-in customer-focussed system design. Economy of flow would be driven right through the system starting from the customers’ perspective. It would discourage well intended but centre-driven tampering with the rules: if a new rule requires supplementary questions, a counter-productive (and measurable)cost is paid through added complexity to the form.

    If my kids can identify most things in the universe by asking twenty questions on a long car journey, it should be possible to make a just assessment of tax from a limited set of questions.

  2. Miley Mason says:

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