Tech Insider: Why Citizen Input is Crucial to the Government Design Process

As digital technology practices such as modular procurement and DevOps become widely adopted across government, the gap between IT and operations is closing and benefits from the new approach are becoming clearer each day. Now, government must take the next step: close the gap between citizen-specific needs and the process for designing, developing and deploying digital government.

Whether agencies are implementing an application or enterprise-wide solution, end-user input (from both citizens and government workers) is a requirement for success. In fact, the only path to success in digital government is the “moment of truth,” the point of interaction when a government delivers a service or solves a problem for its citizens.

A recent example illustrates this challenge. A national government recently deployed a new application that enables citizens to submit questions to agency offices using their mobile devices. The mobile application, while functional and working to specifications, failed to address the core issue: Most citizens prefer asking questions via email, an option that was terminated when the new app was deployed.

Digital technologies offer government agencies numerous opportunities to cut costs and improve citizen services. But in the rush to implement new capabilities, IT professionals often neglect to consider fully their users’ preferences, knowledge, limitations and goals.

When developing new ways to deliver services, designers must expand their focus beyond the agency’s own operating interests to ensure they also create a satisfying experience for citizens. If not, the applications will likely be underutilized or even ignored, thus undermining the anticipated cost-savings and performance gains that set the project in motion.

Government executives also must recognize merely relying on user input creates a risk of “paving the cowpath”: innovations cannot significantly improve the customer experience if users do not recognize the value of new technologies in simplifying, making more worthwhile, or eliminating a task.

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