I spend much of my time extolling the virtues of all things digital to VIPs across the the public sector. “We should be digital by default!” I exhort “Let’s re-engineer your processes top to bottom and make them available online – the service will improve, the citizens will love it and you’ll save lots of money“.
“We get it” they say “we know about channel shift – we’re with you, but what about the people who are not online?”
At this point in the meeting I pull out my Great Digital Transition diagram:
We or fortunate/unfortunate to live in a fascinating time when society is making the transition from nobody being online to everybody being on line.
There’s a risk that we get stuck in this moment and lose sight of the big picture. Sure – there are some people who are not online but that will only be true for the blink of an eye, relatively speaking.
It’s open to debate as to whether it’s the public sector’s job to get people online (my personal opinion is that the public sector has a key role to play in fostering digital inclusion).
This is almost a moot point however – our citizens will all be online eventually (if they want to be) regardless of any digital inclusion work we do.
94% of adults in the UK have a mobile phone. Yes – many/most of these handsets will not currently be Internet capable or the owner will have a tariff which excludes data – but this is set to change. Can you envisage a future that includes mobile devices which do not feature connectivity as standard and all you can eat data by default? I can’t.
97% of UK homes have a digital TV. Can you envisage a future which doesn’t include the ability to get online via a digital TV? I can’t.
By 2020 all our citizens will have a way to get online if they choose to do so and the proliferation of online-only services and savings will mean that they have a compelling reason to avail themselves of the various connectivity options.
I suspect that things like Universal Credit (online only), online shopping discounts/savings and the relentless march of Facebook and Twitter will do more in motivating people to get connected than all our inclusion strategies put together.
I was talking to a septuagenarian acquaintance of mine recently – a lady who has been steadfastly anti-digital. She’s now online and routinely uses online services. “What changed your mind?” I asked “Someone showed me Candy Crush.” she said.
Of course – there will always be people who prefer not to go online – that’s fine. It’s important to remember that not everyone in the UK is a telephone user – but nobody ever holds up this fact as a reason not to offer contact centres as a channel option.
The impact of the Internet on public services can be confusing and worrying for the people who deliver those services. We live in a fleeting moment when the transition to digital is not complete – but this must not stop us from designing public services from the starting point of assuming that everyone is online (if they want to be).
It’s easy – design good online services and they will naturally become the channel of choice for most people. That’s your channel shift done, what’s next?