What citizens want from their engagement with government

In the digital era, government services require a more consistent, connected citizen journey across channels.

birds eye view of people walking in lobby of building

Between March and December 2020, traffic to government websites leapt 57 percent, totalling more than 1.7 billion visits.

As Australians largely wanted reliable guidance on important health or work issues they faced during the pandemic, there was a premium on trusted sources which is likely to persist.

Our recently released report, A blueprint for enhanced citizen experiences and subsequent eBook, shows that while citizens are used to transacting with government, turning to government for public information was a new and less familiar experience. Citizens’ rising trust in government during 2020 is a testament to departments and agencies leaning into this role.

During this time, Australians also embraced digital access to government and now they prefer it. But from a government perspective, servicing citizens digitally hasn’t alleviated the demands placed on call centres and other traditional channels. They too remain elevated.

Given government often serves citizens in high-cost channels, there is a need to create processes that drive efficiencies. A more connected citizen journey across assisted and non-assisted channels, tailored to the needs of individuals, will ensure people can get what they need quickly. But this isn’t a new concept, so let’s roll back the clock for a moment.

Unrealised benefits, significant potential

Alongside Deloitte, Adobe has been closely examining the pathways and benefits of enhancing the digital citizen experience since 2015. Our first report showed the magnitude of cost savings from digitising transactions. If governments could halve the volume of transactions managed through traditional channels by 2025, it could save $17.9 billion and offer significant cost savings to citizens.

The second report in 2019 showed the efficiency gains from delivering better digital experiences could give every Australian adult one day back each year that would otherwise have been spent dealing with government.

At the time of our third report in February 2021, the full extent of these targeted cost and time savings for citizens and government are yet to be realised. However, our research reveals a pathway and the practical steps towards achieving these goals.

While citizens have engaged with government more than ever since the pandemic, they still have to navigate 64 million pages of content across all government websites. In doing so, our research shows that one-in-two Australians found information to be inconsistent, and many needed to go to more than one place to get the information they need.

However, citizens are clear about what they need to do when conducting government transactions, like registering a car or lodging their tax return. When it comes to public information many often don’t know where to go and are twice as likely to start with a search engine, family and friends, or the media than they are to go directly to a government website.

This can be problematic for a number of reasons, particularly in an era where information sources are fragmented and disinformation is rife. Take, for example, the issue of work rights, which many Australians needed to clarify during the pandemic.

Starting with a Google search for work rights and COVID-19 yields more than two billion search results, and even results on the first page include websites from multiple government departments, unions and law firms offering information on the topic. Given that each of these may be different, how can government make sure the right people receive the right messages?

Government has the opportunity to provide personalised public services and information for every Australian. By using data to better understanding citizen needs, then acting on that information to deliver tailored information, public service delivery can be enhanced. If done right, unrealised cost and time saving benefits are more likely to follow.