Citizens First: The Key to Successful GovTech Modernisation

Government organisations at all levels across many countries are urgently working to modernise legacy backend systems and paper trails. A wave of digital transformation initiatives aims to introduce new websites, applications and automated workflows to greatly improve citizen access and ease of use when interacting with the state. However, without thoughtful user-centric design carefully crafted around actual user needs, these well-intended GovTech upgrades risk frustrating the very populations they hope to help by constructing new barriers.

Too often there is an undue fixation on migrating aging IT infrastructure without an effective focus on design principles around real citizen requirements. The technologies become ends in themselves rather than means towards tangibly improved public infrastructure and experiences. We have seen unfortunate cases of agency platforms functional only on specific outdated web browsers, elegantly built health portals largely unusable on widespread mobile devices, and convoluted new identity checks annexed onto services without considerations around impacts on vulnerable groups like the elderly. 

Technologists can readily become overly enamoured with exhibiting advanced capabilities without evaluating if they tangibly better outcomes for the single mum just trying to securely submit a benefits application on her dated phone.

We and a swelling group of user-experience (UX) design advocates argue that situating inclusive design, accessibility standards and human-cantered techniques like design thinking at the very inception of any GovTech modernisation initiative allows governments to sidestep creating frustrating user experiences. Instead, they can construct tools, platforms and workflows that feel intuitive and empowering across our diverse societies.

Some best practices put forward include journey mapping with end-users before screen drafts, leveraging insights that trace how groups currently navigate processes to reveal pain points and moments of magic worth replicating. With needs elucidated, civil servants and contractors can co-create citizen-focused solutions. Additionally, trimming verbose policy wording facilitates mobile interfaces for broad usage, while testing offline functionality and maintaining non-digital access channels ensures inclusion.

Upgrading technology necessitates investment. But much can be accomplished through listening to and empathising with end-users, maintaining openness to iterations based on feedback, and leadership commitment to citizen-focused success metrics. 

If modernisation originates from compassion not showmanship, we can craft policy, touchpoints and procedures suited for all people across society. That is the true GovTech impact within reach.

Want to discuss your programme with our team?  Perhaps you’re particularly proud of where you have got to with modernisation of a legacy public sector system, let us know, we’d love to hear more.

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