Digital by Default Reimagining Public Service Delivery White Paper Government

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Digital by Default Reimagining Public Service Delivery White Paper Government
White Paper
Digital by Default
Reimagining Public Service Delivery
About the Author
Rajdeep Sahrawat
Rajdeep Sahrawat heads the business development and marketing functions for the
Government business unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He has over 20 years of
cross-functional experience and specializes in international sales and business
development. Prior to joining TCS, Rajdeep served as the Vice President at NASSCOM –
the premier trade body for the Indian IT-BPO industry. At TCS, he anchors several strategic
transformation programs for domestic as well as international government bodies.
The way citizens consume public services is undergoing a profound change due to the
growing popularity and mass adoption of digital channels. Governments across the world
need to prepare themselves to respond to this change with more efficient and citizen centric
delivery of public services. More importantly, digital transformation initiatives must go beyond
basic automation. They must focus on a 'Digital by Default' approach that fundamentally
transforms the way citizens interact with government departments and agencies.
This shift from traditional to digital channels is a win-win proposition for both citizens and
governments. For citizens, benefits include better user experience, convenience, speed,
personalization, and affordability. Governments in turn can take advantage of lower cost of
service and improved citizen outreach.
In this paper, we take a look at the Digital by Default approach applied by the UK
government, and the best practices and implementation strategies that facilitate the shift
toward citizen centric governance.
Bridging the Digital Divide between the Private and Public Sector
Digital by Default: A Citizen Centric Approach to Digitization
Delivering cost-efficient transactional services
Best Practices for Digitizing Government Services
Implementing Digital by Default Services: An Integrated Approach
Architecting a Successful Digital by Default Strategy
The Indian Government Improves Passport Service Delivery through a Digital
Platform: A Case Study
Reimagining Public Service Delivery through Citizen-Centric Governance
Bridging the Digital Divide between the Private and
Public Sector
Consumers are increasingly choosing digital channels to buy products and services. According to a report
published by the UK government in 2012, 60 percent of consumers in the UK accessed online banking in 2011,
compared to 45 percent in 2005. Online bill payment grew from 39 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in 2011, and
online shopping increased from 74 to 86 percent during the same period¹. We can see these trends continue, at an
even faster rate, and sectors such as banking, financial services, retail, and hospitality are rapidly moving services
and customer interactions to online channels.
However, the increasing consumption of online services by consumers in the private sector is not matched by a
similar adoption of the public sector services. While the proportion of UK citizens using online government services
increased from 39 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in 2011, the growth has
flattened since 20071. This is in stark contrast to the high adoption of online
Online services in the
government sector are not at
services by UK consumers in other sectors.
par with those in other sectors,
Why has the adoption of online services in the government sector fallen
with regard to ease of use,
behind that of the private sector? When benchmarked with respect to ease
convenience, and
of use and convenience, government online services compare unfavorably
responsiveness. Why has the
with online services offered by other sectors. In addition, alternative
government sector not yet
experienced the 'digital' magic?
government service channels available to citizens often provide a better and
more responsive experience than online services. This can be attributed to
several reasons:
Dependence on legacy systems: Instead of a ground up redesign of services based on citizen needs and usage
expectations, digital technologies are bolted onto existing legacy systems. Such an approach fails to exploit the full
potential of these technologies and only automates the as-is processes, instead of delivering a better user
Piecemeal approach: The absence of a whole of government (WOG) approach to digitization results in services
and processes being department centric, with multiple information silos. A holistic approach to digitization can
help citizens understand the structure of the government and how it functions, for them to make the most of the
services they wish to avail.
Low interoperability: With most government departments operating in silos, citizens end up keying in their
personal information, repeatedly, for availing different services across departments and agencies. Aside of high
costs and the effort involved, this duplication also leads to errors due to redundant data records.
Outdated policies and legislations: Most legislations that were instituted for the traditional paper-based and
manual approach are clearly outdated, thereby impeding the deployment of online services.
[1] GOV.UK, “Government Digital Strategy” (November, 2012), accessed March 15, 2015,
Digital by Default: A Citizen Centric
Approach to Digitization
Key to digitization of public
services: Shift of focus from
compliance and transaction
fulfillment to designing online
services that meet citizen needs
and improve user experience.
According to the UK Government², the Digital by Default Service Standard
translates to delivering high quality digital services that are intuitive,
convenient, and fulfil citizen needs effectively. It also aims to make digital
services the first choice by default, while not excluding citizens who prefer traditional channels. Therefore, Digital
by Default should provision services that place priority on simplifying access to data and services based on the
convenience of citizens, and not that of the service providers. Secondly, digital services should be more costeffective and easier to design and operate compared to alternatives.
Delivering cost-efficient transactional services
Government services can be broadly segmented into information and transactional services. The information
services segment involves publishing and communicating on websites, portals, and other online channels.
Transactional services relate to service requests and fulfillment such as applying for birth or death certificates,
licenses and passports, paying taxes, and so on.
The government has been quick to adopt online channels for communication and publishing services, especially
through an increasing use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. However, digital transactional
services continue to trail their private sector counterparts.
The average cost of citizen interactions incurred by municipalities in Copenhagen is 80 kronor for an in-person
interaction, 40 kronor for a telephonic interaction, and 3 kronor for a digital self-service interaction³. This clearly
demonstrates how inexpensive digital services are, as compared to the alternative channels. Similarly, in the UK, the
average cost of a transaction involving the central government through the digital channel can be almost 20 times
lower than that of a telephone-based transaction, and 50 times lower than a face-to-face transaction⁴.
While transacting with the government through offline channels, citizens often have to act as 'public service
integrators'. In other words, they have to request for information from one department to be able to conduct a
transaction with another department. A Digital by Default approach makes it easier for citizens to find and access
services. It also enables departments and service providers to deliver
integrated, cross-departmental services.
Digitized public service delivery
is a win-win proposition: As
services become affordable and
faster, both citizens and
governments stand to gain.
Moving transactional services to digital channels enables citizens and
governments to save both time and money through faster and accurate
transactions, simplified end-to-end processes, and a reduced rate of failed
transactions. It also makes government services transparent and efficient, by
reducing the dependence on government staff.
[2] GOV.UK, “Digital by Default: Service Standard”, accessed March 15, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/digital-by-default
[3] Regjeringen.no, “Digitizing Public Sector Services: Norwegian eGovernment Program” (July 2012), accessed March 15, 2015,
[4] GOV.UK, “Digital Efficiency Report” (November 2012), accessed March 15, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/digital-efficiencyreport/digital-efficiency-report
Therefore, transactional services are a good candidate for Digital by Default strategies, as they offer significant
scope for enhancing the efficiency of governance and improving citizen experience.
Best Practices for Digitizing Government Services
To match the adoption of online services in other sectors, governments will need to architect and design digital
public services from the ground up, while prioritizing citizens' needs. Some best practices for designing effective
digital services include:
Dematerialization of documents: Offline services require manual document submission and authentication
which is inconvenient for both citizens and governments. It also increases costs related to logistics and storage.
Dematerialization of documents, by way of authentication through tools such as digital certificates, is therefore an
integral feature of digital services. It offers cost savings, improved convenience, and environmental benefits in the
form of paperless governance.
Transactional service availability on mobile platforms: The manufacture of smartphones is expected to touch
one billion in 2016⁵. It is therefore likely that internet access through smartphones will overtake internet access
through traditional devices such as desktops and laptops. In addition, the growing affordability of smartphones
could make it the universal channel for internet access in the near future. Unfortunately, many government services
available on mobile platforms offer access to only static information or very basic transactions such as status
tracking. Citizens are therefore forced to use traditional channels such as call centers and face-to-face interactions
for transactional services. To drive a widespread adoption of digital services, transactional services like payments
and applications for statutory documents, must be seamlessly available on smartphones and other mobile devices.
Amendment of legislations and regulations: An enabling legislative and regulatory framework is required for
wider adoption of digital services. Current legislations and regulations often obstruct the digitization process. For
example, the need to submit paper documents for authentication despite the availability of online services.
Governments should engage with citizens and businesses to identify outdated legislations and regulations, and
amend or scrap them. In addition to existing legislations, future acts and regulations should support and facilitate
the provision of digital services. The UK Government's 'Red Tape Challenge' is examining over 6000 regulations and
plans to amend or delete 3,000 of them through a consultative process involving citizens and businesses⁶.
Focus on digital inclusion: Inclusivity is vital to a Digital by Default
approach. It needs to be ensured that citizens who are unable to access
online channels are not denied access to public services. Adopting a 'click
and brick' model allows such citizens to fall back on face-to-face
interactions, call centers, or intermediaries to avail public services.
Digitization of public services
does not imply elimination of
traditional transactional
channels. Less digital-savvy
citizens can continue to avail
services through alternate
[5] DisplaySearch, “Smartphone Shipments to Pass One Billion in 2016, According to NPD DisplaySearch” (September 2012), accessed March 15, 2015,
[6] Cabinet Office UK, “Red Tape Challenge: Prime Minister announces government exceeds its target to identify 3,000 regulations to be amended or scrapped”,
accessed March 15, 2015, http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/themehome/pm-speech-2/
Implementing Digital by Default Services:
An Integrated Approach
Successful implementation of Digital by Default services requires a multi-faceted and integrated approach,
encompassing the following:
Focusing on services design: Digital public services should be co-created with citizens from the ground-up. It
must focus on addressing citizen needs, instead of being transactional and compliance centric. This is critical to
delivering a superior user experience.
Providing incentives to citizens: Incentivizing citizens to use digital channels over traditional alternatives for
transactional services will drive adoption. Incentives could include cost benefits such as reduced transactional fees
for digital channels, availability of multiple choices for making payments, extended submission deadlines, better
usability such as pre-populated forms, and so on.
Ensuring citizen awareness: Sustained citizen awareness campaigns that emphasize the benefits of using a digital
channel can boost adoption. Benefits highlighted through these campaigns could include improved cost
efficiencies, enhanced security, faster approvals, easier payment, and instant access to online support.
Enabling technology environment: Digital services should be available across multiple technology platforms.
These platforms should be flexible and should support agile development models to enable rapid and frequent
iterations during service design and implementation.
Enhancing security and privacy: Ensuring citizen privacy, data security, and confidentiality can be a challenge
when providing digital services. It becomes much harder to protect a citizen's personal information and identity.
Identity assurance based on standards and technology neutrality will create a simple, trusted, and secure
environment for citizens to access digital public services.
Defining digital service standards: Digital by Default aims to deliver consistent and high quality experience to
citizens who access services across departments. Digital services must therefore comply with defined service
standards for content, usability, uniformity, measurement metrics, and so on.
Developing a measurement framework: An analytics based measurement framework helps monitor and
evaluate digital services to enable continuous improvements. Service uptake, transaction cost and success rate, and
citizen satisfaction scores are some essential metrics that can help evaluate service effectiveness.
Creating new digital roles: Traditional organizational roles will need to be replaced with new roles that are
responsible and accountable for more efficient citizen service delivery. Some important technology related roles
include architects, designers, and specialists in fast evolving digital technologies.
Ensuring change management: Proactive and early engagement with staff and unions across government
departments and agencies can help overcome resistance to change. It also dispels apprehensions among staff
regarding redundancies and pay cuts as a result of new digital capabilities.
Architecting a Successful Digital by Default Strategy
Apart from a basic adoption strategy as discussed above, the successful
implementation of Digital by Default service design requires the support of
a robust ICT architecture, which comprises solutions that are fundamentally
different from traditional ICT deployments across the various government
departments and agencies. Current ICT systems have undergone minimal
transformation and are essentially designed to replace manual paper
intensive processes with digitized versions. Different departments operate
within their own ICT ecosystem, resulting in information silos that impede
cross-departmental data sharing and overlapping systems across the
government. Traditionally, most services are designed and implemented
with a departmental focus, leading to inconsistent experiences for citizens
while accessing government services.
A successful Digital by Default
implementation strategy
requires a multi-faceted
approach: Some important
considerations are service
framework redesign,
technology landscape, citizen
education and incentivization,
effective change
management, and heightened
focus on data security.
The ICT stack for delivering whole-of-government, Digital by Default services, must take a more holistic approach
and embody the following principles:
'As a Service' implementation: ICT systems should be structured as functional components to encourage agility,
reusability, and 'as a service' implementation. New services should be designed and implemented by using existing
components as building blocks.
Interoperability: Standards based interfaces should be developed for ICT systems to exchange and share data and
information with each other. This helps achieve 100 percent interoperability at zero cost.
Universal accessibility: The 'anywhere, anytime, anyhow' philosophy should underpin digital service design and
deployment. This ensures that citizens can access them regardless of time, location, and channel.
Security: Information, data, and services must be correct, complete, and securely available to parties with
appropriate access rights.
Open systems: Systems must be based on open or approved standards to avoid being locked into proprietary
technologies. Citizens should not be restricted in their choice to use specific devices or technologies to access
public services.
Flexibility and scalability: To encourage continuous improvement of services through citizen feedback, ICT
systems must be flexible and extensible. Development methodologies should be agile and iterative. Systems
should be scalable to accommodate growth in the number of users and citizens, data volumes, and service lifecycle.
The Indian Government Improves Passport Service Delivery through a Digital
Platform: A Case Study
The demand for passport services in India has grown rapidly over the years. However, the traditional passport
issuance system was fraught with several challenges that led to service deficiencies. These included process
inconsistencies, lack of transparency, as well as a long waiting period and request closure time. Additionally, manual
processes made the system vulnerable to errors, sometimes resulting in inefficiencies such as issuance of more
than one passport to one person.
Attempts at automating the process, decentralizing passport application collection, opening new passport offices
and reforms in the central passport organization brought about only marginal improvements to the whole system.
The Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, realized that a complete transformation of the passport
service ecosystem was needed, and as a result, launched the Passport Seva Project (PSP).
An end-to-end digital platform has therefore been created, which enables citizens to access multiple passport
services through a single portal. Services include scheduling appointments, submitting passport applications,
making payments, and tracking application status. The platform also offers a digital workflow through which citizen
applications are processed by government officials on a 'first in, first out' basis. Citizens can also track their
applications status online and through mobile devices.
Reimagining Public Service Delivery
through Citizen-Centric Governance
The Passport Seva Project has
transformed the delivery of
passport services to citizens
while making the system
efficient and easy to use for
government employees. Key
benefits for citizens include:
well-defined service levels,
improved transparency, closer
access points, online
availability of all passportrelated information, and an
effective grievance redressal
Digital by Default requires a fundamental re-architecting of how public
services of the future will be designed and delivered. It transforms the
traditional unilateral citizen-government interaction into a multi-lateral,
multi-channel interaction based on citizen choice. However, Digital by
Default is more than just a channel shift. It presents an opportunity for
governments to provision public services that are convenient, cost effective,
and provide citizens with a high-quality experience, much like the other
sectors. As mentioned earlier, digital services also allow citizens to save time
and money while transacting with the government, which will ultimately
have a positive impact on the economy. Moving regular services to digital
channels is expected to save between GBP 1.7 and GBP 1.8 billion annually, for the UK economy.
Digital by Default also improves interaction and engagement between the government and citizens, resulting in
collaborative policy-making and high-quality interactions across the government-citizen value chain. However,
most importantly, it extends an opportunity to transform public service delivery, by placing citizen satisfaction at
the center of governance.
About TCS' Government Business Unit
Leveraging its considerable experience with complex global projects, TCS offers IT-based governance
solutions to governments, public sector entities, and security establishments to promote efficiency,
transparency, and policy effectiveness, and enable 'smart governance' for all citizens.
Spanning government functions such as citizen services, social development, revenue and taxation,
healthcare, and disaster management, our solutions enable affordable, efficient, and transparent
public services through automating and e-enabling processes with access to real-time information.
We also offer comprehensive national security and defense systems designed for security of
classified data with technologies such as digital certificates, biometrics, and encryption and
authorized access levels.
Our clients benefit from our ready-to-use frameworks and accelerators that build upon our expertise
across technologies and industry verticals, and deliver reduced total cost of ownership, accelerated
implementation cycles, and reduced business risks.
For more information about TCS’ Government Business Unit, visit:
Email: [email protected]
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