A civic-minded citizen seeking the singularity

An entry

A Unified Interface to Government

Series: Civics
Date: 2019-12-26
Status: release
Tags: public ux
This Entry is part of the Series Civics.

Citizens often perceive government as capital "G" Government, not distinguishing the federated and decentralized nature of public agencies. Mayor? President? DMV? It's all Government.

There are more than 90,000 jurisdictions in the United States.

US government is broadly made up of federal, state, county, and local jurisdictions. There are more than 90,000 jurisdictions in the United States.

Millions of American public employees look out from where they work within a specific agency - their perspective is different. Many public servants are quite aware of the bureaucracy and the substantial amount of coordination that happens between departments, agencies, and jurisdictions.

Being immersed within government, it is common knowledge where operational boundaries exist. Being outside government, the boundaries aren't as clear. At times, the boundaries can become frustrating experiences. For example, a Business Owner may need to interact separately with 2 or more public agencies on the way to incorporating a business.

The decentralized architecture of government often manifests Conway's Law, which describes how an organization's internal structure influences the shape of its external products or services. Thus, it has been common for government to offer services that appear disjointed to a citizen. A citizen is forced to navigate a government's non-intuitive internal structure from the outside.

But there are alternatives.

Think of a large organization like Wal-Mart, who have hundreds of stores across the United States; yet have highly coordinated operations, both within a store and across their stores, including online. It is well-known that Wal-Mart has used that coordination as a strategic advantage, both driving down costs and improving customer service.

Wal-Mart has focused on unifying the user experience for their customers, in order to provide a better experience for customers.

In time, it makes sense for government to do more to unify its interface for citizens. The "jobs to be done" framework is a user-centered lens that aligns products and services in support of what the user needs accomplished. When public services begin to embody a user-centered approach, it is evident that what citizens need doesn't necessarily align with the internal structure of government.

Nearly every Business Owner needs a Business License, a fictitious name permit, tax information, HR information, and more. Additionally, the Business Owner is required to navigate jurisdictions and its agencies or departments to track down how to complete common tasks. These processes to complete these tasks often vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Burden on individuals and businesses is very high. Efficiency and coordination in government is relatively low.

There is a lot of good work going on at all levels of government (local to federal) and across countries to develop a more user-centered approach to service delivery. Yet, there is a long way to go toward unifying the interface to government, in which public services can be readily discovered and transacted on in an efficient, productive, and fair way. Jurisdictions who deliver on user-centered experiences for citizens will find themselves more competitively fit to serve citizens and business alike.