Matt Culpin 27 July 2022

Citizen 4.0 - The future of local public services

 Citizen 4.0 - The future of local public services image
Image: 13_Phunkod / Shutterstock.com

As the web has evolved over the past 25 years, we've moved through its iterations from 1.0 to 4.0 at an increasing pace. Early users will remember the read-only version of 1.0, which spanned from the early 1990s. However, most will be more familiar with Web 2.0, which enabled users to contribute with blogs, utilise publishing tools, and benefit from eCommerce and social media platforms, all within just a few years.

Web 3.0, which emerged around 2006, was known as the semantic web, with websites and content essentially seen as one giant database, and with search engines able to make sense of content by classifying it and making it easy to find.

With this increased appetite came the ability for organisations to look at patterns of behaviour by using data and science to predict and model future demand.

This has since progressed to Web 4.0, which signals the age of big data and its role in user experience. Also referred to as ‘the personalised web’, we now have the capability to provide hyper-personalised experiences tailored to an individual, and the data to analyse patterns and behaviour changes.

Commercial organisations have been taking advantage of this for several years, notably Amazon with its 'recommended items' feature based on other shoppers' behaviour when buying the same goods. Platforms such as Spotify recommend new music or podcasts based on your playlists, and targeted adverts on social media platforms use cookies to track general web usage.

The public sector gap

It's fair to say local government lags in the adoption of using data science to predict or even mitigate demand for services. In fact, 23% of private sector websites are personalised, whilst practically 0% of public sector websites are not.

The reality is though, that as governments work towards new agendas such as Levelling Up and integrated health and social care, local councils should consider investing in technologies and practices that predict demand for services or can flag issues before they happen.

For local government, it would make more sense to consider how this approach will directly benefit its end users - ‘Citizen 4.0’ if you will. By using the data that is already collected through citizens using public services, we could create a public service experience for them that is entirely tailored to their needs.

But the questions remain, how do we use that data that we're collecting in a way that makes sense to us? And what exactly is that data?

An example of this is how many local authorities have the means to prevent vulnerable citizens from needing primary care, for example, through grants and services available to prevent falls at home. However, it is often the case that they are not even aware of the vulnerability of individual citizens until they are discharged from the NHS primary healthcare system. By joining data between public sector bodies such as local authorities and the NHS, it's undoubtedly possible to predict such issues.

Personalisation and citizen engagement

With the increasing pace of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the next iteration of the web, ‘Web 5.0’, is already labelled as the emotional web. The passive assistants currently in our homes, such as Siri and Alexa, and our smartwatches and smartphones are constantly tracking our health and can even detect if we fall. It’s likely that soon they will be able to predict health issues and complete complex transactions on our behalf.

Evidence shows that conversion and engagement increase when websites are personalised. With more scrutiny and pressure on public service than ever before, it's now incredibly important that the sector catches up and embraces these technologies.

Putting the ‘plumbing’ in place

Citizen 4.0 is about providing seamless user journeys from content discovery to transaction completion - tried and proven user experience methodology to shape customer experiences. If you’re considering updating your system to move to a ‘Citizen 4.0’ model, it’s worth speaking to your developer to put the plumbing in place right away.

Matt Culpin is product director at IEG4

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