Making digital government better

An McKinsey Insight interview with Mike Bracken (UK): “When it comes to the digital world, governments have traditionally placed political, policy, and system needs ahead of the people who require services. Mike Bracken, the executive director of the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service, is attempting to reverse that paradigm by empowering citizens—and, in the process, improve the delivery of services and save money. In this video interview, Bracken discusses the philosophy behind the digital transformation of public services in the United Kingdom, some early successes, and next steps.

Interview transcript

Putting users first

Government around the world is pretty good at thinking about its own needs. Government puts its own needs first—they often put their political needs followed by the policy needs. The actual machine of government comes second. The third need then generally becomes the system needs, so the IT or whatever system’s driving it. And then out of those four, the user comes a poor fourth, really.
And we’ve inverted that. So let me give you an example. At the moment, if you want to know about tax in the UK , you’re probably going to know that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is a part of government that deals with tax. You’re probably going to know that because you pay tax, right?
But why should you have to know that? Because, really, it’s OK to know that, for that one—but we’ve got 300 agencies, more than that; we’ve got 24 parts of government. If you want to know about, say, gangs, is that a health issue or is that a local issue? Is it a police issue? Is it a social issue, an education issue? Well, actually it’s all of those issues. But you shouldn’t have to know how government is constructed to know what each bit of government is doing about an esoteric issue like gangs.
What we’ve done with, and what we’re doing with our transactions, is to make them consistent at the point of user need. Because there’s only one real user need of government digitally, and that’s to recognize that at the point of need, users need to deal with the government. Not a department name or an agency name, they’re dealing with the government. And when they do that, they need it to be consistent, and they need it to be easy to find. Ninety-five percent of our journeys digitally start with a search.
And so our elegantly constructed and expensively constructed front doors are often completely routed around. We’ve got to recognize that and construct our digital services based on user needs….”