Online public services and Design Thinking for governments

Ela Alptekin: “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 yields the same results?

  2. Are we measuring 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.

So 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 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.

….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 are able to satisfy their needs….

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 today in the Manifesto for Online Public Services, which sets out simple guiding principles to be placed at the heart of online service design.”

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