I’m a bit believer that better data, and better software can help our governments around the world operate more efficiently, and better work for our citizens. I appreciate what Tim O’Reilly has said where he notes that we want governments to “specify less and do more.” Whatever your political leanings, I think that most of us would like to have our governments work better, whatever that might mean for us.
I ran across a short piece on the design principles of the GDS (Government Digital Service) in the UK. The details are inside of a set of tutorials that you get when you subscribe to Safari Books Online, but I did find a short list of their basic principles. The first seven are:
- Digital by default
- Putting users first
- Learning from the journey
- Building a network of trust
- Moving barriers aside
- Creating an environment for technology leaders to flourish
- Don’t do everything yourself (you can’t)
There are more, but I think that these are overall good design principles for anyone that builds digital services. These are agile ideas, or DevOps ideas, Six Sigma ideas, the ways in which we can be better by learning and evolving as we move forward. Certainly I think governments struggle with the pace of the digital transformation of the world, and trying to solve problems in one large effort doesn’t work. We need the ability to debug, and modify our systems on a regular basis. Both in public and private sectors.
The last item might be one you don’t think about in some private industries, but certainly the idea that you can’t provide everything for customers. Perhaps you may to include an API or integration method to let customers build on what you do, and learn from what your customers might build, including those features in your next iteration. Designing for a diverse audience is hard, and certainly requires flexibility, but also the ability to make hard decisions and focus on the things you can do well, rather than trying to meet every goal and every need.
Hopefully we’ll see more governments doing this in the future.