Question 4: Trends in digital delivery

What key trends should Government bear in mind when designing digital services?

26 Responses to Question 4: Trends in digital delivery

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    Government should realise that they can only design simple text based digital services, because connectivity is so bad (and getting worse) that it is all most people can receive. Unless they get their act together and realise that the incumbent isn’t keeping pace with the rest of the world and do something about it then there is no point in designing new stuff, it just won’t work.
    Fibre to the home of everyone, in place of the old copper would mean that the UK would be a world leader.
    going off topic again.
    but it all boils down to the same thing, without the pipes the people can’t engage in government services.

  2. John Rudkin says:

    Trends? All of them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do it either. Just ear to the ground, what works?
    Mobility is the biggest factor when it comes to trends.
    Add to that the ability to create and contribute – you need technologies that amplify the ability to participate.
    The use of video and audio media need to be grown (yes – more of) so the networks to support all of this need to be enhanced.
    There needs to be equality across the country – be it rural locations or people’s limitations and abilities.
    The Government should not that simplicity of access is the key. Just look at iPad for simplicity and you will see a device that can touch every one. Its a design gem – but for its ease of use, not just the pretty face.
    Inclusivity? Intriguingly the last example shows how the trend to more and more intelligent software design can blow away the issues of inclusivity in the future, but alas cost still plays a very big part. Don’t be fooled by low cost though – because getting to the right design takes time and money.
    They should talk to Steve Jobs or why no Jonathan Ive?

  3. Barry Norton says:

    Government should expose Linked Data and APIs for services and let the community be involved in delivering different interfaces for different communities, rather than chasing their tails trying to make ‘one size fits all’ apps.

  4. Mobility. See the rise of the feature phone e.g. Android.

    Standards. Otherwise known as the maturing of the IT sector. Standards are what make everything else work.

    Expectations of universal access. Ask the BBC what happened when they provided an online video solution that excluded the lowest cost viewing platform.

  5. john culkin says:


    Pay attention to the social trends being initiated by digital comms, as well as the technical ones. It would be nice, if in ten years time the evolution of digital comms had produced an environment where policy makers, service designers and maybe even politicians could do their thinking in the public domain, engaging and refining as they went along.

    Also – bear in mind the developments happening in customer service in the commercial world. Any government and pub sect organisations who provide a service directly to citizens could achieve a lot by implementing a few very simple things like live online chat, call-booking, SMS text confirmations, email reminders, and online account management.

    And regarding choice – if the government is keen to continue pushing choice as a method of improving services, then it should take a look at the kinds of online facilities offered by e-commerce organisations like Amazon, Wiggle and ebay which facilitate choice. For example, features like customer feedback, user recommendations, and “people who visited this page also went here” links could be used to help citizens navigate their way around govt services and choose the best providers.

  6. Government should have a watching brief, understand what they can do, how the public will interface, but still concentrate on the data. Communities will embrase technologies and the delivery to the new media when there is benefit to them. What is the benefit in investing time and money in an application to deliver DVLA information to iPhones as yet another way of getting the information about your car. If there is a need for this mechanism, commercial forces will develop and deliver one.

  7. Peter Jordan says:

    Yes, government should be moving from providing the only digital destination for its services and transactions and should be where users are; using syndication, apis, linked data etc.

    But there are important responsibilities:
    * Validating the provenance and authenticity of information
    * Monitoring for exploitative services – there are already online services charging additional fees for government services without adding value
    * Providing a core service – that, for example meets all accessibility requirements, covers all the services that the community may choose not to provide

    There’s also a danger of a chimera of choice – if there are a plethora of competing options for accesing government services is that helpful to the average person – especially the digitally excluded?

  8. I could write about trends here and there’ll potentially be new and more important ones next week. I agree 100% with the poster above who says that Govt needs its ear to the ground – how hard is it for smallish teams to stay on top of the news and plan accordingly?

    Having said that, mobile is one area Govt should take far more seriously and not run scared when a columnist criticises them for apps that cost £10k. This sort of money is a drop in the ocean compared with cash savings down the line and the big difference such apps can make to people’s lives.

  9. John Rudkin says:

    It’s intriguing that this question has the least responses to date. I think the whole area of trends is amazingly broad and difficult for people to grasp. But again, its not rocket science. Listen and the trends are there. What I would urge the Government to do however, is to adopt a strategy of watch and wait intelligently. The trends are more about:
    and then cost.
    OK, I said in another answer that the iPhone’s popularity has come despite its seemingly upmarket cost, but the true reason is that the other factors all stack up to help make cost relative – it works in other words.
    You can have all of the technical wizardry (and expert opinion), but “If the device will not let you do what you want to do, then it is a won’t and it doesn’t”.

    Want to see the trends? Look at University Campuses, Schools (among the children), and on the Street. Watch the Internet for stellar movers among the trends, but beware of early burnouts and the possibility of “Twirlies” – a term coined to describe a technology that enters the market “too early” to benefit from other inportant factors – like the Apple Newton. “Twirlies” can show a way forward, but their time has yet to arrive. Google Wave has been described as a “too early” as well.

    There are technology followers who have been remarkable at seeing the trends with accuracy, but they can’t always be right. The thing is – those people can give a good steer to the future.

  10. Ian Tresman says:

    A wider range of access, eg. by mobile phones, and APIs so third-parties can access the data that us tax-payers have paid for.

  11. rex_Imperator says:

    Keep it simple. Big IT projects are mired in attempts to embrace tomorrow’s technologies and guessing wrong, or refusing to do anything until it is clear what tomorrow’s technologies are. By then it is not only the day after tomorrow, but a week later.

    Mobile phones and smartphones are here to stay. Wireless connections in the cafe bar may be slow and now that mobile internet access is no longer uinlimited (new i-phone contracts) simpler makes for better.

  12. Dave Kind says:

    its not so clear cut.

    On the one hand DirectGov must start to not only embrace new technologies but how it changes the way we do things. DirectGov is just totally out of touch.

    But then not everyone has an iphone and not everyone even has a broadband connection either and it is these people that need the Government most.

    Why can’t government engage the innovation that people and smaller businesses have in the UK. It’s won us wars, made ;this little Island one of the economical powers of the world and I am sure if we turned to the people and listened and gave them the opportunity to do something fantatsic things might happen again!!

  13. The key trends that the Government should bear in mind when designing digital services are; (1) Ensuring a consistent minimum bandwidth is available across the country, via DSL, not only available to those on fibre channels. (2) Bear in mind that connecting to the Internet exposes personal and private data to those who know how to hack and those that don’t are generally not capable of securing their own devices sufficiently to prevent such occurrances, instances of which which are growing at an alarming rate. (3) Bear in mind that attempting to secure your device is costly and generally not very effective and is something which has to be revisited often, rather than being set then left, like locking your front door. There are many security products available to chose from, none of them are completely effective. There is no British Standard for security software, or even operating system, surely this would be a prerequisite for assuring safe usage of web based services.
    Training the end user in the safe use of ICT equipment will be the biggest challenge.

  14. Antony Watts says:

    Two issues

    1 Let us all have smartcard electronic signatures issued by government to enable login to ALL services. (Maybe combine with bank cards?)
    2 Ensure open standards and open data access. Ensure response channels (e.g. email) used by all departments (good example of where action is needed is the NHS who have huge IT spending, but don’t use email!)

  15. Mark Pack says:

    One major trend I think Directgov has to adapt to is the shift towards people using a search engine (Google) as the way they find information online, which puts questions such as “to portal or not?” in a very different context from 10 years ago.

    Rather than repeat what I’ve already said elsewhere, I’ve expanded on this point at

  16. There’s only two things that matter: utility and flexibility.

    Utility is whether what is offered solves a problem. Flexibility is about its ability to continue to solve that problem in the face of uncertain changes.

    They are both people-led.

    Utility requires a deep understanding of how people engage with the Government, and how the Government fails to deliver in that interaction.

    Flexibility means keeping things small and modular. Code is generally large and inflexible so some parts of a technical service will be provided with humans.

  17. Glyn Allott says:

    I think that it is imperative to use open standards and open source to maximise choice and interoperability. I would like to see the use of open document format, open standards for multi-media files, and the adoption of open source software including the operating system. It is both expensive and damaging to stay with vendor locked-in proprietary, closed solutions.
    The government should replace IE6 now, the longer it is delayed, the more it will cost in the long run. Finally, I think that retailers should be obliged to offer a choice of operating system on new PCs, which is the natural progression after gaining the right to have choice of media player and browser in recent years.

  18. Mike Hobson says:

    Please don’t confuse open standards with open source. They are not the same thing. I agree 100% with using open standards, but use the right tools for the job, (once you’ve decided what the job is :). In many cases, open source could be the right choice, but it still needs to be implemented. There are also occasions when the tools are not there to do the job, that’s when its important to use innovative new technology that supports open standards but has the power previously unavailable from traditional technology and open source projects. A good example of this is where open source is being used with COTS software but using open standards that future proof the project.

    On another point, why aren’t Gov departments using Staroffice or open office rather than shelling out loads of cash on MS Office?

  19. Paul Nash says:

    Presenting content as text only is not inclusive. The range of content types should be included, video with sub titles, pictures and stories in text and audio. User journeys are informative for other users and mirrors the way in which some sectors learn to use services by listening to the stories of friends. Text should be available in different colours so the use of colour changers on every page is also important.

  20. Chris Webster says:

    The adoption of the internet channel for the delivery of services has seen massive change across the whole of the private sector. Around 15% of all retail sales in the UK are now made on-line )and for some retailers that figure is now over 40%). Over the next decade, the proportion of retail sales made on-line (whether web or mobile) will rise to over 30% and internet influenced sales will probably reach over 90%. The simple reason for that is that this is what users (or citizens want).

    In order to support that channel shift many aspects of the whole digital experience is having to be rethought.

    First, you need to put the user (or citizen) at the heart of your thinking and redesign your services from their perspective. This is leading to the adoption of user-centric design for these services while at the same time being able to deliver a single view of that users activity across all the functions (silod departmental views will just not be good enough).

    Secondly, this redesign of services needs to be radical; taking an off-line process and putting it on-line will just not work. Through this service redesign, structural costs can be taken out of service delivery enabling funds to be released for more critical needs. At the same time, digital services need to be seemlessly integrated with off-line services so that users (citizens) can access the same quality of service in all channels. You may not want them to channel hop but they will.

    Finally, the technology capabilities to deliver this channel shift are reaching maturity. The ability to deliver services in the cloud is now a reality and these real time services can connect with the off-line processing systems of the large departments to deliver what the citizen wants without having to throw away all the investments that have already been made.

    Now is the time to hold one’s nerve and accelerate the shift to digital delivery and not see it as something which should be subject to the cuts that are required by the rest of central government. You need to invest in the future and digital delivery is the future.