How do you use technology to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I head up the Experience Design team at OpenCities Inc., a talented group of folks dedicated to making sure that our products offer simple, engaging and inclusive experiences to all users.

Everybody knows technological changes are reshaping the world faster than ever before. As digital experiences continue to improve, citizens have come to expect that their needs will be met quickly and seamlessly.

Although governments have adopted a range of basic digital services, there are still situations where forms that have to be printed and mailed, appointments that have to be conducted in person between 9am and 5pm, and payments are taken in person over the counter. These experiences increasingly clash with what citizens have come to expect from the likes of Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, which furthers the misconception that government can’t innovate.

OpenCities Inc. exists to create smarter, better and more efficient digital governments that drive innovation rather than responding to it.

By transforming the relationship between citizens and government, we’re creating a collaborative government-citizen environment. It gives people a voice in the design and delivery of public services as well as expresses an opinion on the quality of services offered.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?

One of the most exciting things in 2016 was launching our new OpenForms product to the market. OpenForms is the fastest and easiest way for government agencies to build interactive online forms allowing them to digitize customer requests, applications, and payments.

By digitising customer transactions, we’re not only lowering the cost of delivering public services but also increasing civic engagement and economic growth.

To show what a difference OpenForms can make to people’s lives, one of our clients has used it for their kindergarten registrations. Hundreds of time-poor families have registered their children, including making secure digital payments on-the-go, with the touch of a button on their smartphone.

We’ve also helped cities process thousands of registrations ahead of the festive season, reducing the lag of processing paper forms to almost zero and enriching the community by promoting festive events and celebrations.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?

A few weeks ago, I attended An Event Apart conference in San Francisco. I was so excited to attend the conference, as Brad Frost, the author of Atomic Design, was giving a talk on the same topic.

The Atomic Design book introduces a methodology for thinking of our UIs as thoughtful hierarchies, discusses the qualities of effective pattern libraries, and showcases techniques to transform product design and development workflow.

Atomic design is about designing with the big picture in mind. Breaking the design down to the primary building blocks to fully understand what the user really wants is going to be immensely helpful as we’re redesigning our OpenCities platform early next year!

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?

People often respond to something new and unusual in a negative way. Be prepared for this. As long as you’re convinced that you’re doing the right thing, go ahead and do it!

Who is your hero and why?

I have been following Cyd Harrell’s work on ‘Low-Cost Guerrilla User Research’ for the last couple of months.

Cyd was the former Product Director and Head of UX for Code for America, and currently works for 18F, the U.S. General Services Administration’s internal government design firm. Cyd and her team were pioneers in low-cost, high-impact research methods that transformed how our entire industry looked at gathering research knowledge.

Guerrilla user research is an inexpensive way for many unfunded government agencies and smaller product development teams to add significant benefits to the project. Remember some user research is always better than none!

And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?

Ooh, this is a hard one to answer as I’m a self-confessed foodie. 🙂 I’m going to recommend ‘Feast of Merit’ in Richmond, a bustling cafe by day, a stylish casual restaurant by night, featuring a local twist on a contemporary Middle-East menu.

It’s inspired by a cultural festival in the northern Indian region of Nagaland, where the community gathers to celebrate a ‘Feast of Merit’ hosted by someone who has acquired wealth, ensuring that the poor and disadvantaged are well-fed and the newfound affluence is distributed back to the community.

All of Feast of Merit’s profits go to YGAP (Y-Generation Against Poverty), a charity that supports youth education and leadership projects in Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Australia. The venue is an attempt to develop permanent funding for the charity.