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Report of the Digital Government Review


Empowering People and Communities through Digital Services

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Introduction: making participation meaningful

We want people to be more than just users of public services. We want people to use, create, consume, customise, play with, share, improve, inspire, and own public services [98]. We want people to participate.

When government works with people we will build better services, ones that are more closely fitted to people’s needs. These are public services that people will take pride in and choose to use.

We need to make it easy for people to participate, to know where to go and who to talk to, to know that it adds to the end result and isn’t just a box-ticking exercise.

It is important to recognize that people will find it extremely difficult to participate in public digital services without basic digital skills. Once they do have basic digital skills, however, a more participatory approach to public services will help some people develop skills and confidence around technology. This is another important reason for addressing digital inclusion.

For people to choose to participate they need to know that if they have a comment or problem or feedback to offer – on their data, on the services they’re receiving, on the issues they care about, on what’s happening outside their front door – they will not only be listened to, but will have the right to affect what happens next.

We will empower people if (1) we couple this level of participation with increased accountability for those who deliver public services; and (2) we offer openness and transparency around the performance of public services.

None of this will happen if public services are built top-down, whether it be by Whitehall or the Town Hall, in an old-fashioned command-and-control way. If we build services in this fashion we will fail to grasp the opportunity. We will fail to build truly excellent digital services. We will fail to develop participation and we will fail to empower citizens and communities.

In this chapter, we thus set out what precisely it means to bring participation and empowerment around digital resources for people and for communities of all kinds, and at all levels of privilege and ability.

“The needs of the citizen must be at the heart…. the public sector must become reactive to the demands of the general public, recognising changing trends within the delivery of services and keep up to date with the rapid change of technology.” – Large Company

[98] For this report we will be focusing on digital services and digital government, many of the arguments also apply to other public services.

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