Big Thoughts, General Technology, Government

The Future of Government Services, Part 3

By Dr. Jonathan Reichental, CEO, Human Future, and Chetan Choudhury, Government Adviser

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on the future of government experiences. You can find part 1 here, and part 2 here.


Many governments around the world are ramping up their efforts to provide higher quality services to their constituents. Notable work is being done in cities and government agencies big and small to make services more accessible and easier-to-use. Some are moving to the more complex phase of addressing the questions around customer experience and interaction. Much of this is being done digitally, through online interfaces and smartphone apps.

The convenience quotient of such efforts is a magnitude better than the cliché of government offices with long wait times and unpredictable processes. The latter is increasingly becoming unacceptable as expectations have increased, patience has decreased, and criticism has become louder.

What is driving this notable change in constituent expectations and what can governments do to respond more quickly?

What is Driving Expectations?

Changes in general consumer expectations are linked to at least two core drivers.

First, our communities are getting increasingly tech savvy—many of them are now Internet-native, meaning they grew up using the Internet and digital services and don’t know a world without it. For them, information and services at their fingertips isn’t premium, it’s basic. Anything less would be stone age. Searching a government site should be as accurate and simple as Googling. Submitting information should be as straightforward as a Facebook post. Responsiveness should be as important as the CEO personally responding to a critical tweet.

We are quickly approaching a time when a government service without an app is almost like no service at all.

Second, we can safely pin it on consumer applications for creating the entry bar for how solutions should work. After all, these applications live or die based on the scarce patience of users. A few bad interactions and you’ve lost a customer; they’ve moved on to the competitor. This is actually good in the marketplace. Rigorous competition benefits users because it puts pressure on companies to continuously maintain and increase quality standards. In fact, consumer applications do such a great job in this area, that staff in enterprises often opt for consumer solutions rather than the enterprise applications they are supposed to use. It even has a term: consumerization.

Realizing that constituents want their government experience to be similar to consumer applications may seem unreasonable, but it seems that’s where we are.

If you’re building a digital solution in a government context, the standard isn’t another government agency; no, it’s an app for booking a table at your favorite restaurant. It should be designed beautifully and be secure and responsive. That’s the new bar. That’s the expectation. Anything less and you’re probably not meeting expectations.

How Can Governments Meet Expectations?

So, what can we do to accelerate efforts to build better government experiences?

We believe that governments can’t do this alone. Not only is it complex, but it’s not a core competency. Governments should focus on what they do great and either outsource or partner to do the things that are not in their sweet spot. Remarkably, many governments still opt to go it alone. We have all been witness to the outcomes of such endeavors.

Partnerships take many forms: from simple contractual arrangements where the various parties take on work commensurate with their strengths, to creating incentives for the marketplace or community to independently step up. In the latter, we are proponents of programs that make government data easily accessible for both decision-making, and the process of building solutions around that data.

Open data portals enable governments and the private sector to come together and engineer new collaborations and partnerships. Opening up pools of data to startups and innovators can not only inspire transparency but also empower these innovators to use public data for transforming public services. It’s an opportunity that has not yet been fulfilled.

Measuring Expectations

Finally, it’s essential for governments to understand how they are performing. They need this to know what is going well and what is struggling, and also to help them achieve targets. There are a multitude of ways to approach this, but some form of collecting and acting on feedback is an absolute minimum. This feedback data can be used to drive positive change and to motivate action across a government entity.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we have all the tools to build and deploy delightful government experiences. But a disconnect remains. Communities are desperate for great services, but governments are all too often failing to deliver.

The time is right to align with expectations. Our communities are waiting.

At the World Government Summit in Dubai in February this year, leaders from around the world discussed these challenges at a government services forum. You can read the report of that discussion here:

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on the future of government experiences.

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