30 September 2022

Towards a human-centred vision for public services: Human-Centred Public Services Index

From registering a birth, to getting social security support, or applying for a driving licence, we all use public services in our everyday lives. People rarely choose to use public services, but are rather driven towards them by circumstance and necessity. Unlike the private sector, people often have no alternative but to use government services even if they find a service difficult or impossible to access and use.

We believe that well designed public services are human-centric.

This means that they work well for everyone and reflect a deep understanding of people’s needs. Human centric services require careful design. Throughout this design process, governments need to proactively engage with users to ensure that services are easy to use, easy to access, reliable and effectively deliver their promised outcomes.

Our Index measures the extent to which the impacts and key principles of human-centred design are evident in 30 countries’ public services. It enables countries to know where they stand when it comes to delivering human-centric services, and to see their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This is the first of a weekly series of blog posts detailing the regional findings of our Human-Centred Public Services Index. Tune into our social media channels to follow along!

The Index at a glance

The International Standards Organisation defines human-centred design as an approach which prioritises “human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance”. For IDEO, a global design agency which has championed HCD for decades, this is achieved first by “cultivating deep empathy” with users, and then generating ideas and sharing findings, before putting a new solution into the world.

These values of engagement, user satisfaction, accessibility and service security are some of the key components of human-centred design which our Index looks to measure. They are the basis of the Index’s five thematic pillars, which contribute to answering an overarching research question: ‘to what extent are principles of human-centred design evident in a country’s public services?’ Each pillar chosen represents a fundamental element of human-centred design:

Five core pillars of human-centred design

The Index was topped by a pack of three leading countries in human-centred public service design, separated by only small margins in their scores. The United Arab Emirates came in 1st, followed by Singapore (2nd), and Finland (3rd). This leading pack was separated by a significant margin from Canada in 4th, the United Kingdom in 5th place and Uruguay in 6th. As the top six countries demonstrate, human-centred design is not unique to a particular region, but is working its way onto government agendas around the world.

The Human-Centred Public Services Index 2022 shows that success in public service design is geographically spread

According to service users worldwide, if governments are to provide effective services which work for everyone then they should commit to higher accessibility and inclusion standards, and must work more closely with their residents to properly understand and design for users’ priorities. To do so, they should emulate and learn from the best of human-centred design in the public and private sector internationally.

This Index is the start of a process which we hope to  develop and improve in future iterations. In the next version of the Index, we would plan to broaden the scope of focus countries, which was capped at 30 this year.

However, index rankings themselves will never tell the full story! Follow along as we dive into a regional analysis of our findings or read our full index on human-centred design services here!

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