A perfect e-government service?

I’m going to get to my point via a fairly roundabout route, so forgive me.

What does a perfect e-government service look like? Nowhere in the world is take-up running at dramatic levels – that is, levels where anyone could reasonably say that they have transformed their government, delivered something to their citizens that they never had before or mammothly reduced costs the way that we expect businesses to do every day. So, what would a service look like that would achieve that kind of take-up? A perfect service.

It must be:

– Easy to find – hunting for a service by trawling through hundreds of websites or by entering obscure terms into a search engine shouldn’t be the rule. So that means it’s either on a simple website (www.gov.uk?) or available through someone else’s service that you are using (bank, insurance agent, pension provider).

– Personal – the service needs to know who you are, so there must be a simple and effective way for it to know who you are and what rights you have over the service. That might be a digital certificate or it might be a userid/password or it might be a token that you already have (like a travelpass, entitlement card or identity card).

– Relevant to you at the time – the service must be wrapped in information that you need at the time that you need it. That means that the service needs to know a little about you, either because you’ve just told it, you told it last time or it can intuit enough based on the path you took to get to it. So entering data that you’ve entered elsewhere is out.

– Proactive – the service needs to tell you when something has progressed with your application or request; or it needs to tell you when something has changed in the process or in your interaction with it. So the service needs to know how to reach you by the way that you want to be reached (so mobile phone text messages, email alerts).

– Reliable – when you need to use the service it needs to be there, it needs to work quickly and efficiently and it needs to do it on the system, device or gadget that you are using.

So, if it needs to be all those things, how do we get to a service that might look like that. Well, one way (and I’m finally getting to my point) that occurred to me has to do with the authors of the weblogs that I read. Over on the left of this page you’ll see the main ones – and there are others that I read less regularly and still others that I am sure that I would read if I could find them (back to that easy to find thing). The issue is that they write in their space, I write in mine – and we all wonder about each other’s ideas and we try and interact, but it’s all a bit remote.

If we were to setup a forum that had Phil Windley with his views on authentication, Dave Winer with his technology ideas (and developments in RSS), Jon Udell just because he knows lots of stuff, John Gotze because he set up the first government-related weblog and also because he understands the issues that face government, Simon Moores because he’s been around the block on this stuff for a while, James Crabtree and Bill Thompson because they are Vox Politics and probably Vox People. And there are others too I am sure. So if we put them all in a “room”, virtual or otherwise, and had them map out the things that are needed to deliver services that have the features that I outlined above, could we solve all of the problems that we face, deliver services that people want and see, finally, transformed government? Just a thought.

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