Storm IDs Head of Solutions Consulting, Rob Tarling, blogs about the philosophy behind designing for public sector data in the digital domain.
I love http://transactionalservices.alphagov.co.uk/ (post since removed) from the Government Digital Service (GDS) – well done.
Data Driven Design
This sort of data driven design philosophy is exactly what should inform priorities and drive the overall solution design of government digital services going forwards.
This has not always been the case. For instance, the paper: Does Directgov Deliver? (2009) makes a really useful point about the previous approach to transactions on Directgov:
“This list of fully online services does not come across as a coherent set built around consumers’ real priorities. For instance, it’s possible to buy a personalised car number plate but not to track a school application. Instead, this list comprises functions that the Government is able to provide easily and consumers’ requirements have not been accounted for. It suggests the pressure of delivering Directgov’s target of amalgamating websites has compromised an assessment of what consumers would reasonably expect to be able to do on a public service website.”
To me, therefore, this sort of data analysis is the critical start point to a focus on what is essential to users – either citizen or business – rather than what is necessarily easy. And in saying this, in my line of work I fully appreciate that enabling even seemingly “simple” transactional services against almost anything one would care to name is very hard, difficult and time consuming work.
To add something to the debate, I read recently in the US Government’s Digital Strategy that the Federal Government had suggested to each US governmental agency that they should (a) identify their two top (i.e. key) transactions with their customers and (b) if they hadn’t already, they should start work on enabling the online user journey for both. Of all the things in this strategy paper, this struck me as being a brilliantly practical approach to beginning what is going be a long, difficult but very valuable journey.
As the buddhists say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. What’s good about the GDS is that in true buddhist terms they are attending to the first steps “mindfully”.
Like I said, truly well done and you have my vote.