In the 2020/21 season of the Premier League, Liverpool needed a goal against West Brom to keep their Top 4 hopes alive. In almost the last play of the game, a goal came from the most unlikely source. Liverpool’s goalkeeper had headed in the winner.

Sometimes the solution you need is the one you least expect. While governments focus their attention on citizen-centric approaches, a digital service designed around the public sector’s backend processes may be the key to improving the user experience.

Brian Chidester, Head of Worldwide Industry Strategy, Public Sector at OpenText discusses how designing a public service back to front will create services that have a strong foundation working behind a nice-looking appearance.

Outside the box thinking

A lot of governments will start at the citizen first and then work their way backwards. “I’m not convinced that it’s the best strategy,” Chidester says. “A perfectly designed digital citizen service is really one that’s built from the back office forward,” he shares.

The digital government services in Qatar are “best in class” in this respect, says Chidester. The key to their effective service was to focus on the internal government systems.

Brian Chidester, Head of Worldwide Industry Strategy, Public Sector, OpenText

They adopted OpenText’s automation platform and AI tools in the backend of their digital services. This allowed them to create a single platform where multiple services could be accessed, like arranging vaccination appointments or booking recreational activities.

Services would be a “thin piece of paper with no substance” if not for the investment in their tech foundations, Chidester shares.

Focusing on the work of staff is a good place to start for government agencies. Automation can take over tasks like “mundane data entry”, and enables public sector staff to tackle “higher value work” like personal interactions with citizens, he highlights.

Government sites can then use AI to understand citizens’ needs and suggest next steps. This is inspired by sites like Amazon which will suggest that you rebuy a particular item because it is needed monthly, Chidester uses as one example.

Backend improvements can also make services more seamless. Citizens often have to sign into multiple digital services in one session on a service. But adopting automation can help connect multiple databases, meaning citizens will only be asked to sign in once.

Focusing on the backend technology might seem like a strange decision amidst a global focus on citizen centric services and attractive user interfaces. But without a strong foundation, services will be limited and a “frustrating experience for the citizen”, Chidester says.

Making the most of data

Governments have one key advantage when looking to improve their digital services. The public sector has “so much data on the citizen”, says Chidester.

The public sector will be able to identify the specific needs of citizens in a particular region. They can then personalise their websites to make popular services more visible for those who need them, he explains.

One other example is that agencies will see whether digital services have a strong following on social media. This will help inform the most effective method for governments to share updates and additional information with citizens.

Allowing for data-sharing within the government is the first step to using the data they hold. Automation and new digital tools can help break down the silos where citizen data is often stored and unused.

Randy Goh, Regional Vice President, OpenText Southeast Asia

“Governments can put their data to good use by making their digital services more convenient and personalised for citizens” says Randy Goh, Regional Vice President, OpenText Southeast Asia. “This will strengthen the interaction between citizens and government”, he adds.

“Data is the key, but data in and of itself, is absolutely useless. Information is what’s valuable,” emphasises Chidester.  The second step is for governments to adopt AI and machine learning to analyse their shared data, identifying patterns and trends to create information.

The global challenge ahead

Suzanne Lim, Senior Account Executive at OpenText Southeast Asia

Developing digital services without the backend engine to improve citizen experiences is a common challenge for governments around the world, says Chidester.

Public sector agencies are seeing up to 80 per cent of their budget going towards the operations and maintenance of their legacy systems. This legacy technology is not allowing governments to meet the demands of an increasingly tech-savvy citizen, he identifies.

“When it comes to backend infrastructure, a forward looking approach will bring key benefits”, says Suzanne Lim, Senior Account Executive at OpenText Southeast Asia. “Organisations should be looking at technology that takes the user experience to the next level”, she continues.

When citizens see personalised content on ride-hailing apps or online shopping sites, it’s natural for them to wonder why government services aren’t doing the same. Starting from the backend process and building a strong digital foundation could take the public sector to this next level.