In the Lab+ experiment we have been testing the concept of what integrated services could look like into the future, including what a user's experience with government might be like. We have taken a strong user-centred approach to our service design. We intentionally created a safe, neutral place for people from different agencies to work collaboratively to explore what services could look like and what insights we could discover when you don't apply an agency-specific lens.
One of the outcomes of this work was, through the useful lens of a life event, to build some experimental future states for government service delivery, built entirely around the user's needs and taking into account the possibilities of multi-entity service delivery, while ignoring the limitations of the current landscape. Only by planning for what you want can you meaningfully change what you have, and iterating on the status quo can only take you so far.
We chose the events that occur around retirement and becoming a "senior" as our life event, as it traversed various agencies as well as the the private, NGO and public sectors. We analysed previous research as well as conducted our own (all to be published, appropriately anonymised), and were able to identify particular user needs and pain points along with some fascinating insights. This work helped us realise that people like to have different types of interactions with government to meet different needs, and at different points of the journey.
So, without further ado, below are the three concepts that clearly came out of the research we conducted.
When trying to actually interact with government, many users talk about wanting some assistance, both because it is complicated and they don't want to get it wrong, and also because having someone who understands your context can dramatically speed up the process. We found people didn't mind too much whether it is a person or a machine, but they really want visibility of the interactions that happen between agencies on their behalf, as that would give them the ability to correct the record (where required) without delays.
Users often record the names of people, the details and dates/times of discussions specifically to have a record for their own purposes. So the third element of this guidance/conversational future state was the idea that a transcript of all such interactions would be readily available to you, along with the option to interact in a timely way to keep processes that matter to you on track.
This future state starts with the assumption you've been notified about a change to something and that you have the opportunity to enter into a conversation about it. The concept could apply when you would engage with government for a number of services across agencies.
Secondly, there is a lot of interest within governments internationally to deliver services proactively. There is also a lot of mythology around just how far users want government to do this, and what is even possible. Our research found that users were quite keen for proactive service delivery, such as either being notified of being entitled to something or even automatically getting something from government.
Government data is necessarily retrospective however, so it can be dangerous and intrusive to try to predict, for instance, when people are moving country, or planning a child, or preparing for bereavement. We were aware of the danger of taking proactive delivery too far.
Our users talked to us about how something like being informed that their superannuation payments changing due to the death of a spouse was actually useful, but that some cultures would certainly find it confronting. User input led to the insight that proactive delivery should certainly be both developed in collaboration with users across cultures, and that people should be able to opt in to what they want proactive delivery for.