Rising mobile access presents opportunities and challenges for government

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I spoke at a conference recently organized by ‘sociitm’, a group of local government practitioners in the UK who are focused on ‘delivering public services in the digital age’.

They began in organizing efforts to improve website development and continue to pursue a widening range of online points of access to public services.

Following my talk about the cultures of Internet users, a Web services manager for the Children and Family Services Department of the Edinburgh City Council spoke about trends in mobile communication.

Mobile by design

His basic message was that increasing proportions of the public are accessing public services from mobile devices. In fact, he estimated that one-third of all access to public services is already coming from mobile devices, and this is expected to increase dramatically over the coming years.

In addition, he noted that most customer journeys for public services involved more than one device, such as mobile and a pc, fitting well with our finding about next generation users tending to employ three or more devices in the household with one or more portable devices, such as smartphones, tablets or readers.

This led him to focus on how to design services so that they can be used on a mobile device, such as designing services in the first instance with mobile access in mind, where it makes no sense to provide links to document formats that cannot display on a mobile device, for example.

I found this to be rather surprising, even knowing how major mobile has become for social media, email and other applications. This will have huge implications for the design of public access to information and services.

Interrelated

It also illustrates a developing theme of our discussions at Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for England (ACE) and the Nations Committee – how interrelated various agencies are becoming.

All of a sudden, all of the departments and agencies involved in providing online services to the public are closely tied to regulatory issues that Ofcom is facing in dealing with mobile access, such as not spots and 4G and 5G developments.

The interdependency of different regulatory and governmental departments and agencies is increasing in a variety of ways, posing a major challenge in the coming years for all actors involved in delivering public services.

In thinking digitally, we need to think about growing interdependence of activities and agencies. You can find a copy of my presentation here.

Bill Dutton is Chairman of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for England