How government can engage with citizens online – expert views

The Guardian: In our livechat on 28 February the experts discussed how to connect up government and citizens online. Digital public services are not just for ‘techno wizzy people’, so government should make them easier for everyone… Read the livechat in full
Michael Sanders, head of research for the behavioural insights team@mike_t_sanders
It’s important that government is a part of people’s lives: when people interact with government it shouldn’t be a weird and alienating experience, but one that feels part of their everyday lives.
Online services are still too often difficult to use: most people who use the HMRC website will do so infrequently, and will forget its many nuances between visits. This is getting better but there’s a long way to go.
Digital by default keeps things simple: one of our main findings from our research on improving public services is that we should do all we can to “make it easy”.
There is always a risk of exclusion: we should avoid “digital by default” becoming “digital only”.
Ben Matthews, head of communications at Futuregov@benrmatthews
We prefer digital by design to digital by default: sometimes people can use technology badly, under the guise of ‘digital by default’. We should take a more thoughtful approach to technology, using it as a means to an end – to help us be open, accountable and human.
Leadership is important: you can get enthusiasm from the frontline or younger workers who are comfortable with digital tools, but until they’re empowered by the top of the organisation to use them actively and effectively, we’ll see little progress.
Jargon scares people off: ‘big data’ or ‘open data’, for example….”