UK's public services design ranked among the most human-centric

UK public services rank fifth in the world when it comes to human-centric design, a new report by government technology consultancy Oxford Insights shows.

The Human-Centred Public Services Index 2022 measures the extent to which 30 countries use human-centric design principles when creating citizen services, based on 10,000 responses from a global survey.

The United Arab Emirates tops the ranking with a score of 86.57, followed by Singapore (86.37), Finland (85.35), and Canada (80.18). Uruguay follows the UK (79.57) in 6th place with a score of 78.72.

“As the top six countries demonstrate, success in public service design is geographically spread quite broadly,” the report says. “Human-centred design is not unique to a particular region, but is working its way onto government agendas around the world.”

Survey participants were asked to evaluate their countries' public services against the five pillars of human-centred design:  service experience, accessibility and inclusion, public engagement, government effectiveness, and technical foundations. 

The International Standards Organisation, an independent federation of national standard bodies, defines human-centred design as one that prioritises user needs and requirements by applying human factors and usability know-how to enhance efficiency and improve human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability, while counteracting possible adverse effects.

Unlike user-centred design, which understands an audience in relation to a product, human-centric design acknowledges wider complexities of the human experience and considers beneficiaries of a service that might not have been included in the design process, in addition to the user (such as a parent applying for a child’s passport). 

GDS: A “good example” of human-centred design

The index acknowledges the UK as an early precursor of human-centred design in Europe through the establishment of the Government Digital Service (GDS), which has as its core principle to ‘start with user needs’ based on user research. It also names GDS as a good example of an organisation using human-centred design for public services. 

GDS’s user-centric principles have inspired other countries' administrations, including the government of Uruguay, which in 2020 published a human-centred design methodology based on GDS’s guidelines. Former GDS staff are also working with other countries to help develop human-centric public service, including Martin Jordan, ex-Head of Service Design at GDS, who currently works as Head of Design for Germany’s Digital Service.

According to the report, the UK scores “perfectly” on the digital accessibility indicator, which was calculated by running service web pages through testing software. However, the study also says that the UK’s lack of a single sign-on service across government is behind its lower technical foundation score and is an area for improvement.

In June, the government published a cross-departmental digital and data strategy where it committed to the auditions of a common login by all government departments by 2025. Government Transformation Summit

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