Services designed to exceed expectations: Inclusive citizen centric service delivery

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Experiencing an exceptional or unexpected service has always made my day and given me a burst of joy - getting an upgrade on a flight, in a hotel, a better table at a restaurant, or free express delivery on a purchase. Someone going out of their way to go above and beyond is always something I remember and leaves a positive perception.  

Is it possible for consumers to get a service upgrade from the government the way they do from the private sector? Yes. Many countries around the world are digitizing their administrative services to meet citizens’ demands. They are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable predictive services , a technology that informs users about services they need or are entitled to. This could be as simple as a reminder to renew a driver’s license or a passport, a notification about eligibility for a benefit, or preparing for a life event such as birth of a child, getting married or planning retirement. The good news is that public administrative services are becoming more personal, less cumbersome to obtain, and are being delivered faster than ever before.

More governments are using design thinking, a mindset that utilizes innovative and iterative approaches, to deliver high quality services in an efficient, user friendly, and accessible way to those with disabilities.  These include Albania, Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, Moldova, New Zealand, the United Kingdom. While governments may have used different approaches or tools, the objective is similar: to create better value for service recipients and beneficiaries.

The Service Upgrade: The GovTech Approach to Citizen Centered Service Delivery guide presents a four-stage model of modernization: Rationalization, Reengineering, Digitization and Delivery. The key principles of the four stages are efficiency, quality, and inclusivity with the understanding that modernizing services is an iterative process that can be continuously improved.

The guide highlights that including a wide range of beneficiaries in the design and delivery process contributes to meeting the needs of a wider population. A few questions to keep in mind when designing interfaces and services: who will access them, where and how they will access them, and what are their digital skills, literacy, and expectations. If citizens find it challenging to obtain services online or if the services received don’t meet their expectations, they may revert to traditional means of access, reducing the impact of the service reform. If governments invest in modernization and digitization of services that are rejected by citizens, the return on that investment will not reach its potential. Launching poor e-services may turn off users for good – especially if they are not user-friendly or accessible.

The World Bank Guidebook for Accessible GovTech provides development practitioners and governments with steps and actions to use GovTech solutions that are universally accessible and inclusive.  For example, designing GovTech solutions that are accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs) could enable for a significant proportion of citizens who may need specific assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnification, and hearing aids to independently obtain services and participate in public affairs.

As part of the IDA19 policy commitments which will continue under IDA20, the World Bank is supporting IDA countries to design and implement universally accessible GovTech solutions and services. This can be done by ensuring that services and online information meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 or later) and accommodate assistive technologies. It can also be enshrined in laws, policies and procedures from e-transaction laws to IT specifications in procurement contracts. The guidebook includes examples from a diverse group of countries like Brazil, India, Kosovo, Singapore and the United States that have committed to universal accessibility.

The use of citizen centered approaches can result in services that better meet needs and have improved usability and reliability from a greater range of users.  It is never too late to apply these principles, no matter what stage of the reform process. There is always an opportunity to improve services to bring that burst of joy to users who have had a positive experience that exceeded expectations, which may lead to greater adoption and uptake of all digital services, increasing the return on investment and impact of reforms.


Kimberly Johns

Senior Public Sector Specialist

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