Transforming the public sector to meet the demands of today’s society is no mean feat, writes Director at Equiniti, Paul Lemon.
We live in an ‘always on’ society with the public demanding access to their public services when and where they want them. A quick glance at the 2016 OFCOM Communications Market Report for Northern Ireland and we see that over seven out of 10 people here have access to a smartphone and this remains the most popular method of accessing the internet. Add to this the ever present demands on the public service to reduce costs and squeeze budgets, and the digital government agenda has its work cut out.
Despite these very real challenges, the Northern Ireland Public Service has definitely grasped the nettle in terms of facing up to the need to go digital. The Digital Transformation Service has stated that they want to increase the number of government services available online and deliver over 70 per cent of all citizen transactions with government via digital channels by 2019.
A best practice example of digital first is Her Majesty’s Passport Office. After carrying out research, they overwhelmingly found that up to 70 per cent of its customers who booked face-to-face appointments would rather use a web booking service if it was available. HM Passport Office selected Equiniti owned Toplevel to provide them with this service. It was anticipated that 41 per cent of appointments would choose to use the online system at launch, increasing to 70 per cent by the end of the year. However, this figure was surpassed during the first month with 71 per cent of applicants choosing to book online, opting to take advantage of accessing the service 24 hours a day.
The smart use of IT is becoming a real enabler for the Northern Ireland Public Service with the development of efficient processes delivered via innovative digital technologies. If implemented correctly, digital transformation in Northern Ireland presents a tremendous opportunity to improve citizen engagement whilst at the same time driving down costs.
A critical success factor is the absolute need to put the citizen at the very heart of any business process redesign. No more IT projects for the sake of IT. If the ultimate aim is to deliver efficient systems to increase citizen engagement by improving accessibility, then processes need to be built around the very citizen themselves.
An understandable dichotomy exists with citizens today regarding the delivery of an accessible public service. Citizens want their public services at their fingertips 24/7, however, when it comes to data security there are very real concerns over the protection of their personal data.
Through the introduction of innovative technologies such as biometric authentication, citizens can be reassured that access to their sensitive personal data is secure as their information will be protected by fingerprint or voice recognition technology.
Having confidence in the accessibility of public services will be critical to the wide-scale adoption of digital technologies and the success of digital government in Northern Ireland.
It may not be a simple task to transform so many different facets of the Northern Ireland Public Service but with the right commitment at senior levels and the smart use of IT to put local citizens at the very heart of digital processes, we will continue to see a positive shift in citizen engagement coupled with a much needed reduction in costs.
Director at Equiniti
Tel: 028 9045 4166
Equiniti is a specialist outsourcer delivering technology-enabled solutions to large enterprises. It processes £90 billion in payments every year, handles 88 million documents and pays 20 per cent of pensioners in the UK. We are acknowledged leaders in many of our markets and keep things running smoothly for some of the UK’s best-known brands and public sector organisations.