In the moment: Redesigning services around citizens’ lives

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels
February 9, 2021
Digital & technology

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For years, civil servants have worked to build the principles of user-centred design into public services, shaping systems and interfaces around the needs and interests of citizens rather than providers. But this goal can rarely be achieved by individual organisations – for citizens’ needs cut across departmental remits, demanding action by different public bodies. In most countries, people going through a ‘life event’ – from birth to retirement, homelessness to business formation – must interact separately with a range of separate agencies, each with their own questions, processes and requirements.

But digital technologies and organisational reforms are providing solutions to this challenge, enabling governments to provide online ‘one stop shops’ where citizens can access all the services they need at a particular moment. For service users, such platforms boost accessibility and convenience. And for providers, they improve the quality and efficiency of service delivery while supporting better coordination between services.

The UK’s ‘Tell Us Once’ service, for example, simplifies the process of notifying agencies about a death. In New Zealand, the government has launched ‘Smart Start’: a mobile site that brings together relevant services, agencies and information for parents. And Singapore’s ‘Moments of Life’ offer, launched with 12 services for parents and the elderly, now provides access to more than 40 services through the LifeSG app.

Creating these systems demands close inter-departmental collaboration, service reforms, and new technological capabilities in fields such as identity verification, automation and data exchange. At this webinar, civil servants from around the world explored how governments can pursue ‘life event’ strategies – putting citizens, rather than departments, at the centre of service delivery.


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer, The Governance Laboratory (The GovLab)

Stefaan G. Verhulst is Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab) at New York University (NYU) – an action research center focused on improving governance using advances in science and technology – including data and collective intelligence.

He is also, among other positions and affiliation, the Editor-in-Chief of Data & Policy, an open access journal by Cambridge University Press; the research director of the MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance; Chair of the Data for Children Collaborative with Unicef; and a member of the High-Level Expert Group to the European Commission on Business-to-Government Data Sharing.

At The GovLab, Stefaan Verhulst has developed and leads a range of impactful research initiatives that contribute to an enhanced understanding and improved practice of using data, science, and technology for decision and policymaking.

Lauri Haav, Managing Director at e-Residency, Estonia

Lauri Haav heads up Estonia’s e-Residency programme, a government start-up that has revolutionised how a country can serve entrepreneurs from outside its borders. Since 2014, e-Residency has empowered startup founders and freelancers alike by providing them with a secure means of digital identification and the ability to register a truly location-independent business in an EU member state and the world’s most digital society. Every entrepreneur who has an e-resident digital ID can access Estonia’s e-services, sign documents digitally, and launch and run their business 100% online. Lauri has more than 20 years of private sector experience in the field of IT and fintech, having co-founded and having additionally held senior positions in innovation-driven global companies such as Monese and Helmes.

Emmanuel Kgomo, Chief Director in the Department of Public Service and Administration, South Africa

Mr Emmanuel Kgomo is a Chief Director in the Department of Public Service and Administration. He heads the Batho Pele (People First) Unit, whose focus is on the professionalisation of the public service through the Batho Pele programme.

Mr Kgomo’s first office in a government department was at the Presidency in 2000-2003. He then moved to Gauteng where he launched the Community Development Workers’ programme in the Provincial Government between 2003-2004, and was located in the then Department of Development Planning and Local Government (currently the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs). He joined the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) in November 2004. In 2005 he launched the Community Development Workers Programme nationally. He transferred from the Ministry into the Department in 2006 where he joined the Service Delivery Branch, his present location.

He has coordinated the National Batho Pele Excellence Awards in the DPSA since their inception in 2013, and is passionate about professionalising the public service – especially the cultural aspects.

Alex Coomer, Lead Product Manager at DWP Digital, Department for Work and Pensions, United Kingdom

Alex is the product lead for Bereavement and Care in DWP Digital with a portfolio of digital services that includes Tell Us Once, a tool to help bereaved citizens to notify government that someone has died. Other services include bereavement support benefit and support for Care.

As a product leader Alex is passionate about transforming services to meet the needs of users and ultimately improve the lives of UK citizens in times of need. This is especially important considering the position Bereavement & Care service users find themselves at the point they need support. They might need financial support in the midst of a bereavement or to provide full time care for someone with a disability. Alex believes it’s up to Government to ensure people get the right support at the right time and he supports DWP’s digital teams to take a holistic approach to service transformation, looking beyond technology by considering policy, people and process to deliver quality services.

Paul Dommel, Global Director for Tax, Health, and Social Programs, IBM Global Government Industry Team

Paul is the IBM Global Director for Tax and Social Programs. He has 25 years of experience with social security, defence, revenue, and university clients around the world. He works with Governments and IBM teams in the US, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Paul is deeply committed to tech for personalizing services and improving Government for citizens.

Paul attended the College of William and Mary and has an MBA focused on International Finance from the University of South Carolina. He lives near Washington DC with his wife and four children.