A recent Digital Government report estimated that increased levels of digital delivery of Australian government services over the next ten years will result in as much as $18 billion worth of productivity and efficiency gains to government, with another $8.7 billion worth of convenience and time-saving benefits flowing to citizens. The digital transformation cost to achieve these benefits is estimated to be only one quarter of the combined total gains.
In other words, for every dollar spent on digital initiatives in government, four dollars of value can be generated for government and the community.
Of course, the arguments for the digital transformation of government are not only financial. Citizens and businesses needing to interact with federal, state and local government — and that’s pretty much all of us — increasingly expect that our experiences will be not only digital, but as simple, intuitive, convenient, seamless, secure, joined up and rapid as our interactions with Google, Amazon, our banks and our airlines. Basically, we want the same levels of customer experience from the public sector, that the corporate world so readily provides.
With a few notable exceptions, Australian government agencies are some way from this level of digital service delivery. Yet to meet rising customer expectations and to realise the potential financial benefits of the digital revolution, it is clear that governments will need to get serious about delivering comprehensive and high quality digital services in the coming months and years and improve their levels of customer experience and ultimately become more customer-centric.
A critical part of successfully moving citizens, businesses and government agencies to a more digital future will be the adoption of customer-centric approaches to the design of services and systems. This means working from the outside in; conceiving and designing services that are tailored to the needs, capabilities and expectations of the users of those services. In some cases, taking a user-centric approach might mean only minor tweaking to greatly improve a service. In many other cases it can mean completely reconceptualising a service, requiring behind-the-scenes collaboration with other agencies, streamlining of legislation, back end integration of systems and data sets, mobile-first redevelopment of digital interfaces, re-engineered business processes and skills uplift for staff.
Without the widespread adoption of customer-centric Design Thinking into government services, the gap between the quality of leading private sector digital services and government services will widen even further. Adoption of digital services will be slow, and citizen and business satisfaction will be low. Governments will find it difficult to achieve a critical mass of digital self-service adoption, preventing them winding back their spending on high cost channels such as paper correspondence, call centres and shopfronts. Should this happen, the substantial value generation projected will be impossible to realise.
It’s not surprising, then, to see that governments around Australia are increasingly realising that a customer-centric Design Thinking approach is critical to the success of their digital programs.