Why Are UK Government Bodies Going Digital?
Nearly 15 years ago the first work around e-government was introduced, relating to the digitization of governmental services. The pace of the digital environment has accelerated the need for change and is revolutionizing how government and citizens interact. For example in their Digital Strategy document of 2012 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK noted that some 813 million transactions were processed digitally each year. This illustrates growth rates of circa 85%. The ‘always on’ culture and the essential nature of digitization are factors that drive deep and pervasive change in how we expect to interact, in our day-to-day lives.
Digital by Default for the Public Sector
Channel Shift or Digital by Default is a key initiative for both central government and the wider public sector in the UK. Policy dictates a drive to introduce more digital services, on the basis of increased efficiencies in line with digital migration. For many public sector organizations, as well as increased efficiencies and sustainable cost savings, there is a drive to introduce more self serve public services. From an audience perspective Channel Shift is designed to focus on improving citizen engagement and accessibility to frontline services, as well as improving day to day operations and interactions with citizens and other key stakeholders. Whilst there is a push towards digital migration, organizations should be mindful of maintaining their interactions with certain members of their communities, through aligned traditional paper based methods, where personal preference dictates this is most appropriate.
The Benefits of Digitization
The Digital by Default policy and the overwhelming drive for channel shift are clearly visible within public service. But, why this drive and what are the perceived benefits? There are a number of associated benefits, which can be categorized into a few broad areas. Firstly, and most unsurprisingly, austerity has given greater focus on the need to introduce sustainable cost savings. Central Government and the wider public sector, on an ongoing basis, are driven to maintain and improve frontline services, but with reduced resource and at lower deliverable costs. When deployed correctly, the digitization of public services and how citizens interact can deliver tangible and significant savings, thus protecting the public purse.
Secondly, it is important to look at channel shift in the context of individual processes. Whilst a ‘big bang’ approach can certainly create impact, usually a more considered approach to individual processes and circumstances will deliver greater benefits over the longer term. The final category revolves around change and transformation. In order to deliver channel shift effectively, and certainly to maximize the associated benefits, organizations may have to radically rethink their communications strategies. Of particular importance is a need to consider how communications support digital processes, particularly around self-service propositions. Of primary importance is investigating how to engage with citizens, to manage demand and direct them to new self service channels. It is important to note that whilst this remains a key driver a strategy encompassing new and traditional media is important, in order to maintain engagement across all demographics with citizens.
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