In my view the government's objectives in digital delivery should be improved efficiencies, enhanced customer service levels and increased economic benefit. A leaked NHS Review (TechEYE.Net, 6 Aug 2010) claims one third of 4,121 NHS websites failed to meet accessibility standards. However it is the volume, not quality, of these sites which concerns me most. Users are sensitive to opportunity cost when consuming media. Their preference is for quality content delivered from a recognised brand made available through multiple channels (Communications Market Report 2010, Ofcom).
I would argue: There should be a government brand which identifies trusted content or services which meet agreed standards of accessibility, usability and security.
This would allow third-parties to provide digital services and websites on behalf, or funded independently, of government. However the proliferation of websites, identified by the NHS review, has an opportunity cost for customers. A website which fails to win an audience, or funding, in the private sector is removed. There needs to be comparable mechanisms in the public sector which closes failing channels.
To identify how the government should engage with customers online I would apply the tests of efficiency, service level and delivery: If information can be distributed, or transactions completed, online at lower cost than offline a case should be made for digital delivery.
Many customers choose not to engage with Digital Britain. Fixed broadband remained static in 2010 at 65% of households (Ofcom). The report also records clear differences between the media choices of older(+55) and younger consumers (16-24). There must be clear evidence the intended consumers of digital services or content are active users. If a new channel is proposed ongoing costs of marketing the service must be included.
Question 2: Who should do what?
The salient question for government should be, who can deliver this content or service most effectively to the user? Engagement with young people might be effectively undertaken via social networks, travel information distributed via context aware mobile devices, consultation through hyper-local sites maintained within local communities. The role of government, in an environment where customers use multiple channels to meet discrete needs, is to ensure content and services meet agreed standards of accessibility, usability and security.
Question 3: Sharing the platform
Any platform, provided by Central Government, must compete on cost and functionality with third-party solutions. Government should not raise artificial barriers which prevent the public sector from benefiting from innovation and cost efficiencies.
Question 4: Trends in digital delivery
The key trends I would identify are mobility, knowledge management and brand extension.