Last week, I took a trip over to the Barbican for a fab evening with FutureGov and friends, for a Festival of Unusual Suspects event. I was part of a panel addressing the big question: How do we better use digital technology to to distribute power public services.
My hypothesis was that we only think about re-distributing power, when something’s wrong. But given the perfect storm of a banking crisis, austerity and widespread sense that the world is bit broken, this is probably a good time for doing it. In the social housing sector, we’re only just out of the starting blocks in modernising service delivery. Right now, its about getting the bread and butter landlord transactions online, and getting transparency and information into the hands of the customer. So for us, that means making sure that customers can check their accounts, pay rent, report & track a repair, online at anytime.
Fellow speakers from Local Gov shared their vision for online services, and our frustrations with how to deliver it: from big software vendors not having user-centred solutions and low levels of innovation, through to the cultural challenges of change projects (we agreed these aren’t just IT projects) and digital leadership in general.
Matt Skinner drew an interesting comparison about how its possible to get loads of useful information about your weekend away’s accommodation via airbnb, but getting information on your mums care home placement was nigh on impenetrable. With airbnb, there’s high levels of trust in the crowd sourced ratings and feedback. With the care home, there may be a CQC inspection report, but its written in bureacrat-ese and you kinda mistrust it as a result.
Emma Gasson really hit home with the observation that the user-rating reciprocity which is an inherent part of Uber, the cab booking app, means that people might just be a little bit nicer to each other. Not being a regular Uber user, I hadn’t realised this – but the app enables the passenger to rate the cab driver, and the cab-driver to rate the passenger. Last time Emma used Uber, she reflected how she was conscious it was important to be nice (although I’m sure she is anyway), because someone was going to rate her.
It got me thinking about all those “Don’t hit the staff” signs that seem to litter our public service delivery spaces. My hunch is they’re more effective at reassuring the staff that the management team care, than actually reducing the likelihood of being lamped. But the fact that they even exist illustrates the frustrations often felt by the users of the public services. And the massive #FAIL in a lot of the service design. And where the power in those relationships currently lay.
Could feedback reciprocity have a role in online public service delivery?