Digital by Default – what if we build it and they can’t come?

10 February, 2015 by Samier Abousaada | Deloitte Digital UpdateDesignStrategyUser Experience

In November 2012, the government announced its services would be ‘Digital by Default’. By delivering its services primarily online, this policy targets an improved experience for citizens of government services, at a reduced cost to the public purse. Despite research indicating a clear appetite for online government services amongst the majority, an approach that makes provision for everyone is needed. This is because obligations such as the Equality Act 2010 require organisations to make provision for as wide an audience as possible, regardless of their age, disability, gender, beliefs etc.

Our recent work in government outlines three citizen groups in relation to public sector digital services: those who will use the ‘digital by default’ services, those who won’t, and those who can’t.

The thought of being required to change your ‘channel of choice’ from offline to online can for some citizens be an unwelcome one, even for those who have the capability to use online services - these citizens form the won’ts. Unlike the can’ts, these citizens don’t have complex personal or technological barriers to overcome, but lack the receptiveness for change that marks those who will embrace the new service.

Assisted Digital
For those citizens who can’t access online government services - be it due to a lack of broadband, lack of skills and confidence, language challenges, or a disability / religious barrier - the approach known as Assisted Digital is needed.

Assisted Digital is about supporting citizens to use online public sector services who can't use digital provisions independently.

However, identifying citizens’ varied personal, social and economic circumstances to determine the need for Assisted Digital support is not straightforward. Neither are any two government objectives precisely the same. Determining suitable channel strategies, processes and follow-up activity requires both deep knowledge of the relevant policy area and the desired citizen experience. These choices may involve huge disparities of cost and citizen experience between them, and may require vastly contrasting levels of rigour.
In short, this is not a task to be taken lightly.

The successful delivery of an Assisted Digital service has the potential to provide support for those who really need it, in addition to satisfying government wide-agendas like ‘Digital by Default’. Furthermore, the benefits received from a successful Assisted Digital service can be far wider than initially aimed for. Increased digital adoption by the citizen, not only for the originally intended services but across a range of government services, is a realistic target – provided the experience is positive, and continues to improve in response to citizen’s needs.

You can find the full report and more information on our approach to Digital by Default and Assisted Digital here.

This blog was cowritten by Samier Abousaada and Niall Crozier.