Service

  • Strategy and Transformation

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  • Citizen-Centric Personalized Digital Government
  • Government

Article

by Nortal

How human-centered design builds exceptional proactive services

The public elects leaders to maintain order, manage operations efficiently, and serve citizens. In exchange for power, residents expect fairness, prudent fiscal management, and efficient use of their tax contributions. However, according to a survey including participants from 10 different nations, only 41% of people view government processes as clear and understandable. In addition, proactive services are significantly lacking, as only 36% of people view public service processes as intuitive.

Public services remain largely aligned with outdated operational structures and procedures, rather than considering what people today really need. Technological advancements, changing demographics, and economic shifts demand that government entities reinvent public service design if they want to remain relevant.

Whether in government, business, education, or healthcare, human-centered design in critical to efficiency and a high level of user satisfaction. Let’s explore why human-centric and proactive public services are a must for governments who wish to remain relevant, effective, and reduce expenditure—as well as how to achieve this.

 

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The shift to human-centric public services

Society and technology are interlinked, often driving mutual changes. Rapid advancements in technology can reshape human behavior, social norms, and business practices; this evolution influences everything from medical diagnoses to agriculture.

However, technology often isn’t the main catalyst for significant changes in government. Instead, changes tend to arise due to economic pressures, social evolution, demographic trends, and global shifts. They go hand-in-hand: although technology might facilitate these changes, external influences usually have a more profound impact on government transformation. For instance, aging populations in industrialized countries significantly influence government policies on employment, healthcare, and social security. Additionally, the prevailing social climate is pushing for increased equity in both the workplace and society as a whole.

Private sector tech adoption typically precedes and predicts similar updates within public institutions; although there might be a delay, governments usually gradually integrate these private sector innovations later. However, with the accelerating speed of technological advancement, governments need to adopt new technologies more swiftly to keep up.

The future of government hinges on leaders who can preserve the role of public institutions within democracies and modernize them to meet contemporary demands. Public institutions first need to reform themselves before they can address the substantial challenges ahead. As technology drives changes in governance, leaders must comprehend how it can enhance value for citizens. Leaders should adeptly navigate the intricacies of process redesign and comprehend its impact on all stakeholders.

Public services are human-centric

Creating satisfying experiences for a diverse audience requires a human-centered approach. This involves crafting products, services, or experiences in collaboration with users. It’s about recognizing stakeholders as individuals with diverse needs, instead of treating them as a homogeneous consumer group. Rather than bureaucratic structures, services are structured around the context of significant life events.

Research underscores the potential for government departments to humanize public service interactions. One-third of citizens feel dehumanized—treated as numbers rather than individuals—when interacting with public services. Moreover, 30% believe their concerns are handled without sensitivity.

While adopting a human-centered design can significantly transform service efficiency, departments have often hesitated to embrace new or unfamiliar strategies in the past. But with a growing desire to challenge the status quo and improve public service experiences, governments are realizing the value of enhancing their reputation and citizen compliance while reducing workload and expenditure.

Human paying with mobile phone for a bus ticket

Public services are proactive

A proactive approach to public service refers to anticipating future challenges and needs—and taking steps to address them before they become more significant issues. This approach contrasts with a reactive approach, where action is only taken once a problem has emerged. For instance, with proactive service, an individual might receive a notice that their vehicle license is due for renewal with instructions before it expires.

Key characteristics of proactive services include:

  • Prioritizing citizens needs over the convenience of government
  • Reducing the communication load from citizen to state and state to citizen
  • Effective resource allocation
  • Services provided based on events in life or business, not based on state functions
  • Users don’t need to initiate communication to consume the service—of a citizen has expressed consent, the government automatically renders services and initiates communication as appropriate
  • Faster, more efficient, and more accurate processes for citizens and the public workforce
  • Continuous service development as demographics, consumption habits, trends, and expectations change

Proactive services also hide the complexity of internal government structures. They demonstrate cross-administrative and cross-sectoral collaboration to create seamless services and reduce repetition.

Further, proactive public services engage in strategic planning, which involves setting long-term goals and identifying the actions needed to achieve them. This can lead to more sustainable and effective services.

Governments should approach the delivery of proactive services by seeking out user needs—and the best methods to meet those needs. This entails identifying the diversity of users and building services that optimize inclusion, rather than public sector convenience. It requires that governments map out every interaction between a user and government according to a life or business event and clearly define the user journey, data flow, and organizational contribution to effectively and completely solve the problem.

Public services are accessible

In today’s varied tech landscape, a one-size-fits-all approach is obsolete and often exclusionary. Accessible and simple processes are critical to offering proactive services. Research reveals that at least 46% of people would use digital tech to access government services if it was easier to use. Moreover, only 5% of people feel they can start a public service process on one channel and complete it on another without starting over.

With such a maze of processes and inconsistent service, resolving issues the first time around becomes harder. This often leads to citizens being unable to comply with regulations and not getting the outcomes they need. It also results in more work, duplication, and stress for public workers—and thus wasted resources.

The problem is largely rooted in a history of different departments operating independently over time. In contradiction to services that center a service or product, transforming public services requires an omnichannel strategy that places users at the center.

An omnichannel strategy ensures that public services are accessible to citizens through multiple platforms—phone, email, chat, web, or in-person. This approach not only provides convenience but also addresses digital exclusion, serving the elderly, tech-savvy, and hearing or visually impaired users alike. Integrated channels enable smooth transitions from automated to personal service, empowering citizens as engaged participants.

Governments should design user pathways that merge the channels of different agencies as much as possible—and where distinct access points are necessary, they should be cohesive and capable of exchanging data and information smoothly, maintaining uniformity in service outcomes. By delivering consistent, high-quality experiences across all platforms, public services demonstrate their commitment to equitable access.

Woman scrolling on a digital screen using e-services

Putting the public at the center of public services

The Estonian government has significantly advanced its proactive service to families, to make the pivot to a people-centered social welfare system—one which anticipates citizens’ needs proactively.

Effective as of October 2019, new parents in Estonia are automatically offered government benefits without the need to apply. Upon the child’s birth registration, essential services are triggered, and a benefits proposal is sent to the parents. They can then confirm acceptance through a self-service portal with a single click. The proposal includes details of entitlements, amounts, calculation methods, payout schedules, and any subsequent steps.

This all happens thanks to the automated system humming in the background. The system supports a detailed data analysis and considers more than 80 unique conditions to determine who is eligible for benefits and in what amount; it also validates information via various registers to re-approve benefits and values when family conditions change.

This simplifies and fast-tracks decision-making and benefits approval. It also significantly reduces the work and time involved, thereby lowering costs.

Embracing human-centered public services for a thriving society

Human-centered public service design requires a fundamental shift from traditional, regulation-driven government models to a more personalized, citizen-focused approach. By reorienting public services to prioritize the citizens experience, data, and contextual needs—and reduce bureaucratic complexities—governments can significantly enhance service efficiency and reduce costs.

Investing in the development of human-centered services is not a task for the future; it’s an imperative for the present. By aligning with the principles of innovation, proactivity, and accessibility, public services can become more than administrative necessities—they can be catalysts for a thriving, engaged society.

In an era where change is the only constant, those who prioritize the human experience in public service delivery will not only survive, but thrive. Embrace the revolutionary benefits of a digital society—talk to an expert today.

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Rethinking how public services work

Personal government is a vision that considers the next stage of already developed digital societies to provide more human-centric public services, considering the complexities where traditional digital government approaches do not necessarily provide a straightforward solution.

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