Integrated services is about joining up and automating services around key events in people’s lives (life events) to make it easier for citizens to access government services. The advancements in digital technology are a key enabler for integrating services that was not previously possible.
The approach brings together the information and services of different agencies which relate to the same life event into one place, such as an app or mobile site, so they are easily accessible. It also eliminates the requirement to repeatedly submit the same information; encourages collaboration between agencies; and gives us a good understanding of the touchpoints that citizens have with government at the different stages of their life.
Significant collaboration and customer input and research is needed for this approach to be successful. We are in the early stages of the programme. However we are already seeing improvements for users as well as greater collaboration across agencies.
The Service Innovation Group is a cross-agency group, centrally coordinated by the Department of Internal Affairs.
How does the approach work?
A key part of the integrated services design process is about exploring people’s needs outside of the limitations of any single product, service, agency or sector. We talked to citizens and got input on their experiences at the various touchpoints they have with government around particular services or life events.
The approach has already delivered some successful services. An early example is SmartStart, a mobile site which provides expectant parents with valuable information and key services, plus connects them with relevant agencies, all in one place. Further initiatives are in the design phase.
Improving services on a life event basis brings together multiple providers who have the common goal of helping people. Our approach allows agencies and organisations to be involved as much or as little as they choose. There is potential in the programme to:
- develop an integrated service like SmartStart, which currently integrates three services around the birth of a child, but has the potential to add more services to it over time
- improve a person's experience of specific life events such as those who have been a victim of crime, where collaboration between agencies and NGOs is aiming to improve the support services to these people to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing.
Every day in every project, discovery or prototype, we are testing assumptions and sharing insights widely to help the public sector build more empathetic and effective services for New Zealand.
Going through an independent and broad process to talk to customers about their experiences with services sometimes identifies new problems or highlights what we thought was the solution won't work. For example, we found retirees' first service provider they interacted with when approaching retirement was generally their banks, a surprising insight for our government agencies. Another example is proactive entitlements or rebates (eg rates rebates) where some citizens would like to get a rebate automatically based on the information government already holds rather than having to apply. However, user research showed people want to have high control of the process and would prefer to be invited to be assessed, which was a good test of a number of concepts around user consent versus user control.
For the Integrating Services programme, our initial priorities are to work on life events which:
- affect a significant number of New Zealanders (measured in volume of transactions)
- provide a wide range of New Zealanders with digital tools that enable them to access a broader set of government digital services
- involve the services of a relatively limited range of government agencies and NGOs.
What is the future of the technology?
Integrated services will see a citizen-focused digital future where government, the private sector, NGOs, citizens and even machines will together produce faster, more efficient and joined-up services for people over their life-times. There will be a move towards more dynamic services built around user needs and on reusable components from government.
Wrapped around integrated services are key enablers such as building capacity, common components and digital identity. For example, to deliver government services digitally, we need to know who the person is. Digital identity allows people to undertake online what they have traditionally completed manually. An effective digital identity ecosystem will securely and easily allow citizens to demonstrate their entitlements to services while consolidating investment in the most efficient way.
We expect integrated services in the future to become simply how we design government services from the outset, shifting the approach from experimental to the norm.
Integrated Services featured in the Digital Government Showcase, which was part of Digital 5 2018, the 4th annual gathering of the world's most advanced digital nations that NZ hosted in February 2018.
The Integrated Services showcase showed:
- examples of services around life events that have been delivered or are in progress
- the approach we are taking to design the services collaboratively between agencies and with citizens through agile service design
- the range of reusable components that provide common functionality to multiple life event services
- how we are enabling service innovation across the public sector.