The Citizen of Tomorrow: Future Proofing our Public Services
We’re at the cusp of a technology revolution!
With advances in big data, wearable technology, the internet of everything, smart cities and intelligent transportation, the public sector will be at the centre of it all – driven by the citizen.
From a technology standpoint, we are now in a more agile environment, delivering smaller projects faster – we’re in an environment where failure is acceptable, so long as we learn from it and adapt the solution to meet citizen requirements, albeit quickly. The outlook is changing where our departments are now being tasked with looking increasingly to the future vision as well as simply delivering on the service required presently.
The citizen is driving the need for change
As we move into 2016 and beyond, the citizen will be driving the need for change in public services and our future users of public services have been surrounded and immersed in an unprecedented degree of technology. Unlike so-called “digital immigrants”, the next generation of citizens cannot remember a less technological era. This generation will expect every aspect of their life to be connected, efficient, streamlined and available immediately on demand – not just the technology.
So how do we take our current public services and future-proof them? Become a government that the future generation relates to, that they easily respond to and can quickly consume services from. Build a service that is driven by the needs of the citizen by using the correct technology – open, safe and secure – ensuring that the right people have access to the right data at the right time.
To some, this challenge may sound easy – what’s there to think about, we’ve got the technology and we know the citizen wants it… right? But it might not be as straight forward as we first think.
When the DVLA undertook the project to change the way that citizens engage with Tax Disc services, it wasn’t without its trials. This was a service that was steeped in decades of paper history that then moved to a system completely online and was a challenge for some citizens to get their heads around. However, DVLA went about the change in the right way; they listened to citizens feedback, looked at the improvements they could make on their systems and implemented them gradually through the use of test markets.
Propelling public services into the future
To ensure we propel our public services into the future, we need to have the right foundation in place to support the organisation. We can’t run before we walk, but we have to move quickly to react to the speed of changing technology and the citizen demands – the longer we wait, the bigger the gap between what public services organisations have and what citizens want. And what they will soon demand.
A good place to start is with your IT – is it capable of supporting your business of the future – be that 5, 10 or 15 years from now? The National Audit Office estimates that £480bn of government revenue is still reliant on legacy ICT. The impact of the reliance on legacy ICT systems is that public service organisations will find it more difficult to achieve the transformation as outlined by GDS. To provide future services, public sector organisations must understand their current IT estate in relation to their desired future estate; what they have and whether it is being retained, updated, replaced or phased out.
When creating your future vision and strategy, it’s important to understand what you have in the here and now. Public service organisations should assess their estate in terms of costs vs. limitations and risks the applications could present. It will require investment, financial and time, this is not a straight forward project, and a lot needs to be done to ensure that public sector organisations move into the future with a more cost efficient, streamlined business.
We can’t escape the fact that the future is technology and it’s about using this technology to create new opportunities. Ultimately the future will be shaped not by what we think is important, but by what the citizen thinks is important. The future public service will ensure that tools won’t be misused, data will be used for good, to protect our citizens, to provide better public services and ultimately improve the economic wellbeing of the country.
Here’s to the future and beyond!