Challenges in meeting citizen appetite for digital government services

Citizen-centric services are the foundation of effective public administration. In Australia, investments in the end-to-end customer journey across both public and private sectors have transformed the citizen experience, writes Daniel Dojcinovski.

Daniel Dojcinovski

Despite tremendous progress in the past decade, gaps in digital literacy, accessibility and privacy are slowing down the government’s digitalisation efforts.

Publicis Sapient’s Digital Citizen Report 2023 research polled over 5,000 respondents across Australia and found that citizens are hungry for more digital services.

Even as MyGov, healthcare and financial services/taxes were the most accessed digital government services in the country in 2022, there is further opportunity to scale digitalisation to include a wider spectrum of digital services, especially across digital voting, mental health services and digital driver’s license.

More recently, a survey of 2,000 people by Datacom suggested a majority of Australians want to engage with their local council online when providing feedback, making payments and applying for permits and licences.

Meeting citizen expectations

Mental health remains a growing area of concern in Australia, with six out of 10 Australians experiencing mental health issues in 2022. Unfortunately, many still struggle with limited access to specialised healthcare. However, digital offerings can increase the availability of services and encourage more people, who cannot or simply will not attend a mental health support service in person, to seek help.

The demand for digital services goes far beyond healthcare. Australian citizens increasingly value digital government services during key life events, whether the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, when moving into a new house or finding a new job. In fact, more than half of Australians who experienced a major life event used online government services related to the event.

Even as digital adoption rates steadily rise in Australia, many still feel excluded from digitalisation efforts largely because of poor digital infrastructure, high cost, absence of technical skills, or unreliable network in certain geographic areas. This can lead to social isolation. For example, Builders (80 + age) tend to struggle with technology and are five times more likely to rate digital services as ‘very poor’.

Digitalisation in some categories also remains low, for example, across family needs, housing, and education services, employment services and legal services, signalling an urgent need to examine gaps in service delivery. Integrating services across state and territorial borders could eliminate the inconvenience of moving between jurisdictions and promote better engagement, improve access to essential services, as well as ensure digital inclusion.

Addressing barriers

Bridging the digital divide is as much about ensuring internet connectivity as it is about addressing barriers to the use of digital services. Currently, digital inclusion remains inconsistent across government, business, and community groups, with each establishing its own goals and programs.

Better connected services across federal and state jurisdictions will ensure that online government services are used most effectively. Improved data and analytics or digital identification management can also plug low points in the customer journey and offer a comprehensive view of how citizens are using a variety of digital services.

In addition, combining digital literacy initiatives with omnichannel experiences will allow citizens to engage with government services based on their preferences and understanding. Several effective strategies have been implemented to address digital literacy, however wider public and private investments in digital infrastructure, policy and frameworks will be necessary for all citizens to enjoy the benefits of digitalisation.

Lastly, involving citizens in the development and design process will help address specific pain points and deliver targeted and intuitive apps and programs in the future. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to operate in silos and design service platforms and apps that suit the needs and preferences of a small group of people. This will need to change if citizens are to be empowered in the future.

*Daniel Dojcinovski is Director Delivery & Transformation, Public Sector Lead at Publicis Sapient

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