Think of an area of your life that isn’t touched in some respect by a digital component. Or think of any experience and remove all digital influences.

What would your life look like? What would our society look like or our lifestyles? What about our culture? What about our economy?

The point is, every aspect of our lives is touched in some way by digital, and government services should similarly reflect that reality.

Individuals expect the same standard of digital experience and digital capability from their interaction with government as they are familiar with elsewhere. The context may differ, but the core principles of the experience remain – personalization, speed to serve, and “friction free”.

Personalization is perhaps at the heart of this demand from citizens. Digital services that are founded on the needs of citizens and have this at the core of their function are more effective services. It reduces (if not removes entirely) barriers to service and those Governments that are ranked most highly for digital delivery, are those that have cracked designing services where the citizen is an audience of one.

This is a big challenge, but it is a challenge government needs to continue embracing. Some inroads were made with but they were really just a fraction of what is possible. The true transformation was lacking in comparison to more digital “native” economies like Estonia and South Korea. And a large part of this was resistance to making that change – resistance that a pandemic would sweep away.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a crisis of unforeseen scale and depth – not just economically but in a very real and personal sense for hundreds of thousands of people. Its impact will be felt for a generation.

And yet in the midst of this, it has also forced us to think if we could do things differently – communicate, work, shop, provide, In Government it has accelerated the adoption and scope of providing truly digital services because there was literally no other option. From the Gov.UK design system rapidly generating Covid related business support information to moving social and health care monitoring and screening online to providing support for major police investigations to be run remotely – things that felt futuristic a year ago, became a concrete reality overnight.

Having effectively broken the taboo around digital provision the opportunities are limitless; joined up digital services that create passports of need – housing, healthcare, education, social care – and that work across departments to deliver joined up, effective and reduce cost to serve feel within reach. Using data gained through touch points with citizens to re-design services, to improve the information provided, to identify vulnerability and intervene – has been the Holy Grail of government services because it reduces waste, improves outcomes for both sides, and best of all – transforms lives.

Agility in this space is so important and public digital services will need to continuously develop to meet the needs of all citizens. Digital gives the opportunity to explore new ways of providing public services that more efficient, effective and centred on individuals not segments and cut through what are often complex government processes and politics.

The bar has been raised by Covid. Expectations for digital services will continue to be grow but the opportunities are there. The pandemic has acted as an illustration of the art of the possible – and an important reminder not to lose sight of why these services are needed in the first place and who they are for. The challenge is great, but the need is greater.

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