Design thinking and the bumpy ride towards digitization

Emerging markets have been following the digitization race. However, a lack of a user-oriented approach when designing e-services has been slowing down their progress, resulting in poor user engagement and unfulfilled expectations of citizens. design thinking (DT) methodology could help address the problem at its core.

Employed by world’s leading governments, DT principles can aid in developing user-oriented e-solutions and, as a result, drive expedient digitization of the public sector, according to Mindaugas Glodas, CEO at NRD Companies, a global IT and consulting group of companies specializing in e-governance.

Hindering progress

When it comes to modernizing services, the initial ideas tend to revolve around the need to digitize and automate services, not the people who will be using these services. For this reason, a great deal of government efforts to present modern e-solutions fall short of public expectations. This approach has been hurdling the development of e-governance initiatives, especially in emerging markets.

For example, in Lebanon inadequate service delivery has severely weakened the public’s trust in the government. In an attempt to remediate the situation and deliver greater value to citizens, it started to implement strategic reforms to transform its e-services. However, excessive focus on the IT framework, rather than its citizens’ aspirations and needs, resulted in progress slowdown, without solving the problems at hand.

Similarly, in the case of Pakistan and its efforts to create a digital government, the country has faced a number of impediments that followed the e-service adoption progress. The scarcity of people using the solutions, and the lack of awareness about their significance and benefits are one of the key reasons why the country’s efforts collapsed.

Obstacles

In large part, the creation of public services as modeled by demands of institutions, not the needs of the citizens, is caused by a lack of suitable tools, stated Mr. Glodas. He shared that even in Lithuania, a developed and highly digitalized country with a high digital literacy level, a survey of heads of governmental institutions showed that only 27% of respondents believed their institutions have tools suitable for the creation of modern digital services.

“Of course, there are other obstacles some countries face, for instance, red-tapism, limited or inadequate allocation of resources, political corruption, etc. However, a more user-oriented approach, like design thinking and its principles, is invaluable in terms of leading deliberate change in governments that have the necessary tools and are willing to transform their e-services,” he added.

User-centric approach

Mr. Glodas noted that design thinking methods have shown to be effective in building e-government systems in emerging markets, for example the creation of new public digital services in Barbados. The implemented platform provides tools to create and launch e-services based on principles of DT in a matter of 5-8 workdays without the external help of IT contractors when other data is readily available from other platforms. For citizens and businesses of Barbados, these new e-services have shortened the time required to receive a driver’s license, alcohol trade license, and other documents from 56 to 5 days on average.

Another example of the application of the design thinking method is the a personal income tax return wizard in Lithuania. This e-service is a replacement for an older tax return system, which required filling in complicated forms. Older e-service regularly caused huge workloads for state tax inspectorate specialists during months leading to the deadline of tax return declaration due to the need for consultations. The new wizard simplified the process of tax returns: 60% of users were provided with a possibility to file their declarations with one-click, according to NRD companies.

Government sector

Design thinking is a methodology whose principles are based on deep-level user analysis, aiming to discover the needs of the user and build from there. Glodas notes that although widely utilized by the business sector, design thinking is also successfully applicable in the government sector. For example, studies show that in the UK, which has applied DT for building e-government e-service systems for the past twenty years, the confidence of citizens towards e-solutions has increased to 78%.

“It is important to note that the needs of citizens vary country by country. That’s why design thinking method comes in handy: it helps to identify the right solutions on a case-by-case basis for governments to implement. This way, administrations can build efficient systems from the get-go, instead of figuring out the right strategy through trial and error, sacrificing the time and funds that could be used on other projects,” Mr. Glodas explained.

Written by: editors Smart City Hub
Header image: unsplash.com

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