Citizen-centricity is redefining the role of government

Think back to your last experience with a government service and ask yourself: if you could design your own experience, with your needs at the front of mind, what would you change? Find out how citizen-centricity might just be hurdling us closer to that reality than expected.

It’s fast becoming a platitude to say we live in ‘disruptive’ times, with science-fiction-like advances becoming daily occurrences – making even the most advanced governments look flat-footed as people connect and form communities in different ways. Combined with our desire to play an active role in community decision-making, traditional models of governance are undergoing radical rethinking. This has shifted the way we think about governments from that of a service provider; to that of an enabler. Put simply, governments are transitioning away from a service delivery role to focus instead on unlocking opportunities for citizen enablement and improved outcomes.

Just as a service provider in the consumer market is forced to pivot to the ever-changing consumer demand, government decisions are largely driven by the same economic forces. So what does the public want? Web 2.0, artificial intelligence and distributed ledger are but a few of the many emerging technologies now synonymous with digital transformation. Societies are more bold and progressive than ever, and aren’t afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom of government structures, roles and responsibilities. As the digital divide closes in, consumers demand a more citizen-centric government.

Putting the ‘public’ back into public services

Concepts such as customer-focus and service optimisation have been central to delivering affordable and quality public services in the most efficient way. The only problem is, what works for the private sector doesn’t always fit what the public sector needs. More than ever, governments need to redefine their role as an enabler, trading their delivery mindset for one that actually focuses on the betterment of society. Best practices and benchmarking is superseded by collective intelligence; consistency is secondary to resilience; and customer focus is captured more meaningfully by citizen empowerment.

Citizen-centric governments have the ability to demonstrate the unimaginable, such as Buurtzorg – a nurse-led healthcare organisation that has revolutionised community care in the Netherlands. Perhaps one of the most underrated, yet highly successful approaches to citizen enablement is demonstrated by the New Zealand government. Richard Foy, General Manager for Digital Transformation in New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs, points out that understanding citizen ‘pain points’ and their service journey with the government has been the greatest catalyst for political change. “We found that if you have to deal with more government agencies then you are more likely to have a poor experience with government.” By tuning into the voice of citizens, the New Zealand government are co-designing a variety of services such as ‘Birth of a Child’ – a joint venture with expectant parents designed to make it easier to interact with public services leading up to childbirth, and provide online access to parent entitlements. Ground-breaking public policy? Perhaps not. But a shift in the right direction to generate value for the people directly affected by government policy – absolutely. The New Zealand government has also introduced a ‘well-being budget’ that addresses more than just the economic well-being of its people.
Citizen-centricity is designed to enable governments to more effectively anticipate and respond to consumer demand. This can be achieved by shifting from a delivery mindset to an enablement mindset, where human-centred design and citizen empowerment can be used to create more relevant and meaningful interactions between individuals and the public sector. It’s time now for governments to step up as an enabler and unlock the opportunities of a citizen-centric future.


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