I before E

October 25, 2008

An important thread running through my thesis is the need for sorting out the infrastructure before implementing e-government. This isn’t just the hardware or architecture but also the human resource one, the change management and the carrying-out of re-engineering where necessary.

This also the explains my proposal for systems thinking as part of transformation of services.

There are two not-recent but very accessible papers available on the Internet on the subject of government needing to use system thinking. These are:

System failure – Why governments must learn to think differently by Jake Chapman with the second edition published in 2004

Systems thinking and The Practice of Government by Geoff Mulgan from an OU conference in 2001

Since systems thinking still has some way to go in government, these are stll very relevant! At the same time a hot-off-the-press government consultantion on Digital Inclusion manages to state on page 12 that: “Balancing individuals’ preferences must be balanced with the efficient delivery of public services so that the cost to the taxpayer is not unreasonable compared to the cost of choice.” The only way that new technolgies should be paid for is improving systems and we have a long way to go…


Social inclusion and digital exclusion

October 2, 2008

Some interesting statitics are raised in a recent paper in the awsome sounding European Journal of ePractice. many of the papers are quite accessible (for European academic papers) but this particular one is written by Professor Paul Foley who I know from De Montfort University (but that’s not the reason I’m using it, its because he’s made practical use of some available statistics!)

The paper is entitled “Realising the transformation agenda: enhancing citizen use of eGovernment“. A number of quotations are appropriate, but read the paper!

Page 7.

Willingness to use electronic channels is strongly linked to age – older people are less inclined to use digital technologies than younger people. This has important implications for service designers. Strategies requiring channel migration to significantly reduce the use of (or possibly close down) conventional channels in order to yield major efficiency gains will compromise inclusiveness. New channel uptake will have to be targeted at those with the greatest propensity to migrate and traditional channels will have to continue to be made available to older people and others unwilling to migrate. Service designers will have to be aware of the channel preferences of their users and develop channel strategies accordingly.

This approach does not have to result in a trade-off between efficiency and inclusion objectives. The two are not mutually exclusive; efficiency gains are possible by transforming back-office processes and seamlessly integrating the right mix of channels together to deliver a more effective and inclusive service.

In the Omnibus survey respondents who stated they were willing to deal with government electronically were also asked what type of activities they would be willing to undertake. Ninety per cent are willing to use electronic channels to obtain information about government or services. However, willingness reduces with the sophistication of activities – three quarters are willing to book appointments online and around 60 per cent are willing to make payments to government online.

Along with three paragraphs from page 12.

It is sometimes hypothesised that those who are the most frequent users of government services are also the least likely to use the new electronic service delivery channels. This hypothesis was tested and found to be unsubstantiated by the survey. No statistical association between willingness to use electronic channels to deal with government and general contact frequency with government was found.

This is further illustrated when the sophistication of eGovernment activities on the Internet are compared with the sophistication of general activities undertaken on the Internet. Over 90 per cent of eGovernment web site visitors who have used the Internet to send an email have not sent an email to government. Over three quarters or eGovernment users that have bought something online have not made a payment online to government.

However, a quarter of non-users did not choose one of the potential benefits presented to them as a possible catalyst to start accessing eGovernment web sites. This highlights a sizeable segment of the online population who are not yet convinced of the benefits of using government web sites.

European Journal of ePractice · http://www.epracticejournal.eu 12 Nº 4 · August 2008 · ISSN: 1988-625X

This would suggest that we are still a long way from pushing at an open e-door!

Customer insight guidance

August 14, 2008

In an exercise that reminds me of that old definition of a consultant*, the IDeA have asked RSe Consulting to produce guidance on customer insight and RSe are asking the advice of the IDeA Community of Practice.

Below I list the questions and my brief responses, the questions do actually focus the mind:

1. How would you define customer insight and how does it differ from other concepts such as customer focus and customer satisfaction?

1. Customer insight is brought about by having sufficient information about customers and their communities. As a practice I prefer citizen engagement, which can only occur successfully (providing satisfaction) when insight is available and focused upon dealing with need.

2. What do you see as the difference between customer insight and citizen insight?

2. The difference is between customer and citizen. All citizens are the customers of government, customers are not necessarily those of government. Customer insight is the type of information provided by Mosiaic and CACI, citizen insight doesn’t exist currently but would be the accumulation of knowledge about particular citizens or groups of them collated from central and local government experience and practice.

3. What are the main challenges faced by Local Authorities looking to develop their customer insight?

3. The main difficulty is that citizen insight is contained within bands of need or service. HMRC’s insight may well be different to that of a district council dealing with the same citizen. Fortunately or otherwise data protection restricts the sharing of much insight.

4. How do you think Councils and local partners should work together to develop their customer insight and what are the challenges in doing so?

4. As with 3, the main challenge is data protection.

5. What are the core customer insight tools that you have seen used well in the sector and by whom?

5. GIS has been used well to map neighbourhoods and their citizens by LA’s such as Sheffield.

6. What tools do you feel are not well understood and used within the sector?

6. The tools are not really ready yet! Geographic Information Systems can be used but need greater layers of data to truly identify citizens within their differing neighbourhoods. How available the data is to be shared is another matter.

7. What do you think should be the key objectives of this guidance?

7. Don’t reinvent the wheel!

8. What are the most important issues that the guidance should cover?

8. Citizenship has obligations as well. Differentiation between consumers and citizens is important when inclusiivity is discussed. Interesting paper on this in ‘Communications – The Next Decade’, published by Ofcom, entitled ‘What citizens need to know. Digital inclusion, information inequality and rights’ by Damian Tambini.

There are of course other papers around the citizen or customer debate but I think its time to call a halt and focus on the needs, satisfaction and engagement of the citizen.