Sunday, September 01, 2002
Continuing this theme that e-government can't be just for the techno-literate, it's clear to me that somewhere along the way we have forgotten what the Internet can do for us. Our best opportunity for improved communication and facilitation is right here, on the Internet. But government has not yet mastered the art of simplification - it's put itself online with the same approach it has taken in the offline world: complicated words, numeric forms, segregation between departments, limited customer focus and so on. In the past, I've referred to government's online presence as a "matchstick Eiffel towers" - beautiful designs that have doubtless taken lots of time but that are ultimately not too useful. Government is taking the next step now ... bringing content together, aggregating it around the needs of an individual person. This is going to take some time, but it's going to happen. And when it does, the impact on how any given person deals with government will be huge - available benefits and tax credits will be found more easily, regulations that apply to companies will be clear etc. Imagine a pair of drop-down menus on the screen: "I am a ... teacher ... doctor ... school child ... nurse ... 2 person company ... UK-based company" and "I want to be ... a headmaster ... registrar ... university student ... 10 person company ... European import/exporter". Where you are ... and where you want to be ... and then all the appropriate government content displayed for you. The first step will only be links to what you need to know, but over the next 3 1/2 years, services will be added so that you can click straight to what you need to do to move from "I am" to "I want to be". I guess "I am poor" to "I want to be rich" will take a bit of time to arrive, but anyone who wanted "I am rich .. I want to be poor" could have been given advice to invest in the stock market over the last two years. I spent some time today shopping on Amazon. Every time I visit, I find it an easy, painless experience. I have one-click ordering turned on, so I click, select an address and the item is packaged up. Anything I click in the 90 minutes after the first order is added to the shipment. Amazon's web site is the way government should operate ... it's a set of silos, fragmented organisations, complex shipping arrangements, electronic, paper and physical delivery items. Yet, they're all accessible from a single interace - differnet tabs take you between the silos, but you can search across them all, select items from them all and have those items delivered as a single package. Amazon lets you know what you've ordered, how much it costs and when it's going to arrive and keeps you posted on status. For the hard to find things, it has a special service - count that as a government person answering the 'phone or responding to email on a particular topic where the help is not detailed enough or doesn't take care of the particular situation. This is a good model for government to aim for.
Posted by Alan at Sunday, September 01, 2002