Digital by Default: The curious incident of the dog in the night time

At Civil Service Live in London last week, Microsoft ran a panel session on ‘Government Reimagined – The Evidence’. One of the memorable anecdotes from the panel discussion relates to the curious incident of the dog in the night…

Geoff Connell, CIO of the London Boroughs of Newham and Havering, used the intriguing example of who do you tell if you unfortunately come across a dead dog in the road (…no animals were actually harmed in the making of this blog post) – district council, county council, emergency services? Prior to digital-by-default the answer apparently depended on how big the dog was.

It may seem like a morbid/distressing topic for a digital-by-default service but, actually, it is an excellent example of how to improve citizen satisfaction by providing a simple online portal for reporting problems to a council.  The council can allocate the resources required to address the problem and can provide the citizen with confirmation of the submission of the service request and its completion.

This is exactly what all London Boroughs now do, building on the success of LoveCleanStreets, an application originally developed by Microsoft SME partner bbits for Lewisham that has been adopted across local authorities throughout London - watch London Mayor, Boris Johnson, sorting out some local graffiti using this digital-by-default application here.

Overall, from his practical experience in providing digital-by-default services for the citizens of Newham and Havering, Geoff’s practical advice is to promote the benefit of the service to the citizen – not the fact that it is digital-by-default. For example, the take-up on the post-festive season collection of Christmas trees was much higher when the service was promoted with the simply request to register the collection request online with the council.

Take a look at Geoff speaking at Civil Service Live 2013 below...

You can also listen to Ed Schofield from the Rural Payments Agency speaking about how they are embracing a digital future.

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