Implementing the Citizens First Approach to Digitization

Whether booking an appointment with a job center or finding the times for waste pick-up, citizens should experience a smooth and meaningful user journey when accessing the digital services of their local authorities. If not, they will be left dissatisfied having not obtained the information they came for. This is why digitization of public services should happen with the citizens’ needs and individual circumstances in mind.

This is what one Danish council did with their website.

“We digitize with the heart,” said Merete Ravn, manager of digitization at the council of Sorø, to newspaper Politiken (article is in Danish).

The home page of the council’s relaunched website, soroe.dk, is structured around one major search field with the help text: “What are you looking for?”, supplemented by clickable information boxes of six overall topics, such as housing, care, and employment – all tailored to what visitors of the site are actually using the council’s website for. Topics are seasonal too. For example, passport services will be highlighted during summer vacation season.

Less Pages, Better Content

By refurbishing their site, the council of Sorø went from 3,000 to 400 pages of information. Furthermore, the council also used digital analytics to understand the online behavior of their 29,000 citizens when visiting soroe.dk. Specifically, the council’s web team analyzed when specific channels of communications were used and why. So for instance, if several visitors would call the council’s main number after visiting a specific page, it could be an indication that this page was not providing sufficient information.

The results of the website optimization for Sorø were clear: Greater user satisfaction and faster response times.

Consequently, that page would need to be optimized or some content would need to be moved around.

Reducing the number of phone calls and relying on digital interactions instead, not only saves the citizens time, but also reduces the workload of the council. The results of the website optimization for Sorø were clear: Greater user satisfaction and faster response times.

The Three Pillars of Digitization

Denmark is the first nation in the world to make digital communication between public authorities and citizens mandatory. The case of Sorø is a prime example of the kind of approach recently requested by Ejvind Jørgensen, chairman of the committee on public IT at the Danish network for IT professionals. Jørgensen called for a digitization of the public sector placing citizens first.

The “citizens first”-approach to digitization consists of three main pillars: Security, accessibility, and the time-saving aspect mentioned above. Citizens should feel that digital services in the public sector are safe to use. In Sorø, they avoid sending citizens’ personal data to foreign, commercial data harvesters by being very selective in which third-party services they apply to their website. Google Analytics, for instance, is not used.

Accessibility means that digital public services should be easy to understand and use for all citizens, regardless of level of digital expertise, regardless of age, and regardless of any disabilities.

A national strategy for digitization should put citizens first, is the recommendation from Ejvind Jørgensen and the Danish network for IT professionals. In this way, the digital divide is shrunk and no citizens are left behind in the digital society.





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by Aske Denning
July 23rd
2015

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