UK public demand more online government services after lockdown experience, but humanising them will be key, finds Infosys Research

London:  The pandemic has significantly changed how UK residents engage with online public sector services according to new research from Infosys (NSE, BSE, NYSE: INFY), a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting. The research has revealed that online accessibility, convenient single sign-on and human-centricity will be key to the long-term success of public sector digital services.

The survey of 1,500 people living in the UK revealed that 8 in 10 people accessed government online services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents highlighted their appreciation of how inclusive and convenient it is for government services, previously only available in person by visiting local council offices, to be available online and at any time. Yet, while more than a third (34%) of people in the UK used mainly digital services, they still had to use some in-person or phone services not yet available digitally.

While digital engagement has increased during the pandemic, more than a quarter of people (28%) that used mostly digital services still prefer human interaction and are likely to return to in person services when they can.

If local councils and government want the public to benefit from the efficiencies of offering digital services and focus their ‘in-person’ services on the most digitally excluded, the research highlighted areas where improvements could be made.

While most (90%) people believe security is the same or better than the private sector, more than one in five (22%) people struggle to remember the multiple passwords required. In fact, over half (53%) want a single sign-in process for public sector services.

“The UK Government’s National Data strategy deliverables, ‘driving better delivery of policy and public services’ and ‘creating a fairer society for all’, hinge on the continual development of digital public services and on more people adopting an online approach for the long-term. With more than 40 million adults engaging with local and national government during lockdown and 18 million people now accessing these services primarily online, experience and inclusivity should be the key focus of government’s digital transformation,” said Mohit Joshi, President, Infosys.

Inclusion and accessibility

The research revealed an overwhelming expectation that digital services should be a catalyst to increase inclusion. More than four in five people (85%) think public sector digital services should be more inclusive to disabled people, think better access should be given to people in remote areas (86%) and believe that more can be done to appeal to people with low digital skills (83%).

With increasingly ethnically diverse populations, local authorities also face the challenge of offering services in many languages. More than 3 in 5 people (63%) think public sector digital services should be available in more languages. This rises to nearly three quarters (72%) of people born overseas or for whom English is not their native language. Technology has the potential to shrink the digital exclusion gap, providing a greater range of services in multiple languages.

The human experience

Despite people accessing public sector digital services more frequently as a result of lockdown, human interaction is still favoured, whether in council or government offices or over the phone for all ages. What’s more, half (51%) of respondents said it was important for their digital experiences to feel human and show empathy.

This is where technology such as chatbots can bridge the human divide. 71% of respondents stated they appreciate a more interactive approach to digital experiences, and technologies such as chatbots that can show empathy through AI could be of great benefit when encouraging more people to use digital services.

“The UK is built on diversity, and this must be reflected in the services and experiences that citizens access. Our research has really shone a spotlight on the importance of streamlining public sector digital experiences online, humanising those experiences, and bridging the digital divide to ensure equitable access for all. In doing so, in-person and human interactions will be more available to the most vulnerable who need them most,” concludes Mohit Joshi.