Public sector experts urge customized GOL approach

OTTAWA — A client-centric approach to online government makes a measurable difference in the quality of service to citizens. But the focus can’t solely be on the client, according to the director of Internet and service delivery innovation at Foreign

Affairs Canada.

“”Client-centric service is almost the grape Kool-Aid of the day — everybody says it,”” said Dan Danagher at Wednesday’s GTEC session on the Government of Canada’s Service Vision for Canadians, Business and International Clients at the Ottawa Congress Centre.

But in addition to a client need, there has to be a public policy purpose for delivering a service online, he said. “”We have to have a shared view”” of what those policy purposes are, he said.

The “”we”” he spoke of was the representatives of the three client groups of Canada’s Government On-Line: Canadians and residents, non-Canadians and Canadian businesses.

“”We need visions that are customized to the three client groups,”” said Peter Oberle, director of service integration with the Treasury Board Secretariat. Canadians don’t just want services online – they want better-quality, more seamless services, a sophisticated Canadian “”brand”” to represent them to others and responsiveness when they are abroad.

Oberle outlined several keys to transforming online services. Simplification from the user perspective is important — processes should have no unnecessary steps, but shouldn’t miss the necessary ones. A common services approach is also necessary — users don’t want to have to repeat information. And though services will be offered independently by different departments, it should appear to be one service to the user, he said.

Services should be designed to be consistent across channels, Oberle said. There’s a potential for channel conflict when operators at a call centre, for example, deal with a process in a different way than the Web site.

There’s more channel conflict when online services are offered that can’t complete a transaction, noted Danagher. The goal of an online service should be to reduce other channel traffic; a site shouldn’t make a user pick up a phone and call for assistance, for example.

Elise Boisjoly, director general of Government Online for Industry Canada, said GOL must reduce time and effort for business to interact with government, improve access and ease compliance. Eighty-three per cent of business interaction with government is mandatory or compliance-based. “”They want to be good corporate citizens,”” Boisjoly said. “”But they want us to reduce the burden of compliance.””

Small businesses especially need 24/7 access to services, since often the nine-to-five day is booked up.

The priority is on business offerings that provide vertical and horizontal harmonization, she said. Dealing with three levels of government can be arduous for business owners. To open a restaurant in Halton Region in Ontario requires 32 permits.

“”I think we need to start looking at our problems from a client’s perspective,”” she said.

Robert MacDonald, director of the Canadians Gateway for Social Development Canada, said the strategy is to map programs to needs of client segments. Users are segmented by age, issue and interests – for example, health care – and policy priority, for example, persons with disabilities, aboriginals, immigrants and low-income Canadians.

The ultimate segment, said MacDonald, is the individual – service delivered on an one-to-one basis.

“”That’s a few years down the road,”” MacDonald said.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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