Why It Matters to Build Great Digital Services for Citizens

Last week I spoke at Lift Conference in Geneva about how Swedish citizens use digital services to interact with government agencies and public institutions.

Along with the Nordics we’ve come a long way. It’s part of millions of Swedes daily lives to use apps to file tax income papers (72% are filed digitally) or apply for parental leave benefits.

Apart from showing different examples, I stressed the importance of public institutions going digital when it comes to serving their citizens, or rather letting citizens serve themselves through easy-to-use online services.

The obvious reason is resources. From a public perspective digital services are an investment, but pretty quickly it has shown to save time and money. For example, the building of the gov.uk site is estimated to have saved UK government departments over £61m in 2014/15.

But there’s also something to be said about how this matters for the brand of government agencies, how they are perceived by their citizens.

Just as digital services are a way to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty for private companies, I believe that great government services do the same for citizen satisfaction.

In so many countries, we interact with public institutions at some of the most important moments of our lives. When we’re born. When we are married. When we have kids. When we’re sick or need help.

What these interactions look like, both physically and digitally, matter.

When I file my taxes via text message, like we can do in Sweden since 2002, I feel like superwoman. When I can focus on taking care of my sick daughter and use an app to file my benefit claims instead of filling out long forms, I feel in control of my time, and I actually like the Swedish Insurance Agency better than before.

When public institutions provide great digital services that make you more informed, allow you to spend your time better and solve your own problems, it’s not only a sense of satisfaction, it’s a sense of dignity.

Ultimately, I believe that the reward that comes out of well-functioning government services, is a higher level of mutual trust. 

And these feelings - satisfaction, dignity and trust - are feelings that any government would like to build between themselves and their citizens.

Watch the full talk here.