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Survey shows caution over ‘futuristic digital’ public services

13/12/16

Government 2.0 report from Riverbed indicates public are happy to engage with public sector through digital services and single portal, but many are apprehensive over the most ambitious ideas

UK citizens are feeling cautious about some of the more ambitious digital possibilities in public services, according to a new survey.

Keyboard with fingerA majority are unhappy or unwilling to consider some “futuristic digital experiences”, while for all of the eight ideas floated more are against than in favour of their use – with large numbers staying on the fence.

Network, applications and website provider Riverbed has produced the results from a survey of 1,000 people it ran during June.

It shows that for two of the possibilities – being driven to hospital by a driverless ambulance or having drones deliver their passports – most responded negatively.

For the other six – including a judge governing a courtroom through a video link, making a complaint to the police through What’sApp and being served by a digital avatar at a local library – there were a large number of neutral responses, but in each case more were against than in favour of the ideas.

The Government 2.0 report on the findings says that organisations providing the solutions need to create a positive view by ensuring they perform at speeds the public has grown to expect.

Positive possibilities

It points to more positive perspectives on other possibilities, among them that people like the idea of dealing with different public sector bodies through a single portal, and a majority are in favour of more sharing of personal information to support services.

Among the findings was that 70% are happy to engage with the public sector through digital services, and the same proportion would do so through a single portal.

But there are doubts about whether organisations are up to the task, with 45% saying that services are not as good as they should be. The report says this is part of a perception that the public sector is behind the private sector in the performance of its digital services.

This is indicated by one of the examples of survey respondents using a specific channel, with only 15% making use of webchat to deal with public authorities compared with 37% for private sector bodies.

In addition, a majority of 57% are in favour of more sharing of personal information to support services, reflecting another finding that 61% are turned off by the amount of information they have to provide when interacting digitally.

John Street, regional director, government and defence, UK & Ireland at Riverbed Technology, said: “Perception of digital public services is already pervasive in peoples’ lives and as such, expectations for a great experience is high.”

The survey also found, unsurprisingly, that most online contacts with the public sector are aimed at finding information (56%), while 20% are for making appointments, 15% for communications such as submitting an enquiry, and 5% each are for updating information or raising a complaint.                           

Street added: “Moving to a digital first model requires the introduction of new systems and technologies to build an infrastructure that not only improves frontline services but will see the back office become more efficient.

“This transformation to digital is already underway but it comes with a renewed need for security, as well as controlled access, application performance, and visibility across the multitude of services and applications across different public services in the UK.”

Government 2.0 A Riverbed Survey on the Public Sector Digital Experience is available here.

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