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22/04/2022
Perspectives

Designing Digital Government Experiences To Work For Everyone

Ease of access to government agencies has always been a pain point across the world. Slow and technologically weak digital platforms have for years limited citizen interactions, reducing its contact to only a proportionately small tech-savvy section of the population. Moreover, these inflexible systems were difficult to scale when direct contact interactions came to a standstill at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Singapore, in comparison, has always been digitally connected and ahead of most countries in the region, but this sudden jerk in communication between the government and its citizens turned out to be an inflection point in the digitalisation of government agencies in Singapore too. The realisation dawned that digital platforms across the board now need to be even more flexible and agile, encouraging enhanced digital experiences between the government and citizens. It took one pandemic to show that even the most robust systems need constant improvements. 

New-age tech for all ages 

One size rarely ever fits all. As true as this is for apparel, it’s the same for digital experiences. We can’t make a different digital platform for every demographic or age group though, which makes the design of these new age systems even more complex. We have seen a massive shift in digitalisation of government agencies during the pandemic. The pace of change has also led to a digital disconnect with senior citizens, seen clearly in our own Public Service Experience Index (PSXI) reports of 2020 and 2021. But there’s a lot that can be done to bridge this divide, as we highlight in our recent article on it.  

To bring all Singaporeans on board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has started a programme called Seniors Go Digital. Under this programme, seniors don’t just get to learn to interact with and use the government’s digital services but are also taught basic digital communication skills, digital banking, and how to make online payments. Supporting this programme is a Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, specifically catering to lower-income seniors. The scheme provides smartphones and bill payment plans at subsidised rates to them. Four of five telcos are offering plans at subsidised rates for seniors that start at as low as S$5 a month. 

Globally, there’s much thought put to bring elderly citizens on board the digitalisation train. Narrowing the digital gap is also part of the Davos agenda of the World Economic Forum since governments around the world have realised that bridging this digital divide is essential to agencies going online. 

The government’s blueprint 

With a broad goal to build a digital economy and society, the Singapore government has created a Digital Government Blueprint (DGB). It has evolved over time with learnings from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to come up with new policies. The DGB’s core revolves around digital payments for all government services, easy-to-use digital services, security of the data provided by citizens to the government, building apps like LifeSG for individuals, and platforms like GoBusiness for businesses in Singapore. 

The LifeSG app gives you convenient access to government services on the go. Everything from birth registration and applying for a baby bonus to access to over 70 other government services, all from one app, LifeSG shows how well integrated the digitalisation of Singapore is and how easy it is for citizens to access all of it. Seniors can apply for the Merdeka Generation (MG) e-card on the app to avail healthcare subsidies and discounts at merchant outlets. There are planners and calculators too to leverage all digital services offered by the government. 

Emerging digital trends 

To lead and keep pace with this rapid digitalisation drive in Singapore, the government has established five capability centres to focus on each aspect of digital growth. These include design and development of digital platforms, cybersecurity, use of data science and artificial intelligence, a centralised Info-Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and an Internet of Things (IOT) infrastructure. With such a framework, a strong foundation for digitalisation is set to take Singapore forward and showcase to the world how an entire nation can go digital with efficient planning.  

There are clear trends forming now as new engagement patterns develop. From a multichannel approach, the shift to a digital-first approach is getting more seamless since it affords increased responsiveness. While there are going to be initial costs to set up the entire digital infrastructure, over time, this will be a more efficient method compared to an offline approach.  

Secondly, personalisation is the way forward as the country goes digital. Take the example of Tel Aviv’s location-based citizen engagement. It creates a profile for citizens based on their interests and suggests services accordingly in their location or along the route when they travel. And finally, enhanced transparency between agencies on citizen data and engagement will transform how digital experiences for citizens.  

No government needs to do this alone; there’s always help available. Programmes and courses by companies like Apolitical—used by 100,000+ public servants and policy makers—are on a mission to build 21st Century governments that “work for the people and the planet.” From courses that address the basics like ‘How to build a digital government service’ to more in-depth knowledge-based ones like ‘digital transformation in the public sector’ and a host of citizen participation platforms, there’s a wealth of information out there that can be tapped into to design better digital experiences for citizens.  

Concluding thoughts 

While the world continues its digital trajectory, it’s not just about creating this or that in terms of constant advancements but also ensuring fairness and access. It is easy to sometimes get into a bubble of sorts when talking about such topics, but the fact remains that nearly 37% of the population—that’s around 3 billion people—have never used the internet. And while it can be argued that most of them live in developing countries, that’s no excuse for a world that aims to go beyond boundaries. In fact, the onus is on the developed countries to lead the way and extend any support in whichever way they can. Considering that 72% people in a recent survey believe that technology makes life better, it’s a matter of how to keep improving it—not whether or not it needs to be.  

Access to the government is easier than it has ever been, increasingly for all age groups as they learn to interact with and leverage all the services on offer. Digital growth for all can only be possible if we help everyone learn and use digital platforms with ease. The continued development of programmes and schemes to aid this effort will certainly bring about the kind of digital growth in Singapore and around the world that is inclusive, equal, and accessible.

If you’d like to identify gaps and opportunities to make your business ready for a digital-first approach, drop us a note at connect@blackbox.com.sg.

Author: Blackbox Research Team

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