The Future of Canadian Government Online: Services Anywhere, Anytime on Any Device

Posted by Lucas Cochrane, Multi Solution Architect, Public Sector

Public sector organizations are becoming more sophisticated in their communications methods as citizens and constituents advance their use of the Internet and mobile devices.

Only a decade ago, the goal was to simply build a website to share pertinent information with citizens. Then it evolved to allow citizens to complete tasks through kiosks and online forms. With mobile broadband subscriptions expected to grow from nearly 1 billion in 2011 to 5 billion globally in 2016, the public sector is investing more on creating digital experiences that can be accessed anytime, from any device.

What We Can Expect Next: The My.Gc.Ca Vision

This next level of government communications with citizens can be referred to as the My.Gc.Ca Vision, or “My Canada”. This transformation takes reaching and communicating with citizens to deeper, more personalized levels.

The diversification of service offerings online will make it easier for citizens to get involved with the government. If, for example, a user has expressed concern about a chronic health issue in a survey or online questionnaire, My.Gc.Ca could create a regular line of communication with that user about ways to deal with the chronic issue. This targeted two-way communication should make the user feel more secure that the chronic health issue is being handled, and as a result, grow more trust for the government and be encouraged to participate in more political activities.

Much of the public sector is working to find a balance between moving toward new technology and meeting the needs of all its citizens, some of whom may still, and will continue to choose, existing methods such as in-person service locations and mail. A core focus will become integrating cross-department programs and services to create economies of scale, which will save the public millions of dollars per year in the long run.

Using technology to message and respond to citizens quickly and efficiently through a variety of channels is the discussion today. However, My.Gc.Ca takes that even further by shifting focus to the entire end-to-end experience that is offered to different groups of citizens, rather than simply checking off each technological trend box (website, mobile, analytics, etc.). It is now about strategically getting ahead of the communications plan and discovering how to optimize campaigns from a holistic, user-focused perspective.

Next Steps: Guide Your Organization’s Brand Toward the My.Gc.Ca Vision

Like any good relationship, it takes a strong beginning—and continued ongoing efforts—to keep it alive and growing. The six steps below will help ensure your organization takes the right actions to prepare for the personalization movement:

  1. Listen:

Listening to your citizens starts with understanding their behavior. And the only way to learn their behavior is to understand the data. This can feel like a black hole, but it really isn’t. Hire the right experts, invest in the right tools and build a base that can act as your data-gathering machine. Surveying citizens makes it easier to get one step deeper in understanding their needs and expectations on government.

  1. Predict:

After enough time, you will see what citizens are most interested in and/or struggle to complete online, which will guide your investment decisions. You will form hypotheses you need to test. As data is gathered from visitors, communication tweaks will make each successive experience even more targeted. The new adaptive layer will go beyond today’s manual testing and use of UX (user experience design).

  1. Assemble:

Prioritizing what citizens want from their relationships with government makes it easier to create clear digital branding. Now it’s time to use those tax dollars to create digital experiences that consider look and feel, voice, interaction and personal journeys. The data you gathered in the “Listen” phase will dictate what items you place where, and which mediums are most important for what demographics. For example, when applying for a business licence on the Canada Business Network site, the local province licence information would appear on the top of the webpage.

  1. Deliver:

Once the content is assembled, the next step is to distribute to the masses. Use a secure, user-friendly and trusted platform that makes it easy for you to categorize content for different sub-markets, and distribute seamlessly across multiple mediums.

  1. Measure:

As you gather targeted data, you will learn more about each citizen, and know enough to make adjustments. This can include changing geographic regions or languages based on the user. More sophisticated algorithms will integrate data to create truly individualized experiences.

  1. Improve:

Optimize and keep personalizing. Your original hypotheses and assumptions can always be improved. A/B testing is the next level in further personalizing and improving the citizen experience and learning what they respond to best. Then repeat.

We will know when we’re getting close to reaching the My.Gc.Ca vision when nearly every government agency establishes in-house processes to continually understand their users more, and optimizes and improves on those processes. The new focus will be on the ease of citizen involvement with the government.

This next trend of My.Gc.Ca is all about investing in platforms that use data at every point of communication. From the first search or mention on social media to visiting your website and filling out a form to staying in touch after their visit, data is the first step to establishing strong, personalized relationships.

It is important to remember citizens are joining this technology in stages, not all at the same time. They need to meet people where they are and have the right tools to create an efficient, seamless experience on a variety of platforms and technology levels. My.Gc.Ca has the ability to grow with its users in ways that have not even been created yet.

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