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Information, Advice & Guidance or IAG. Catchy title it is not. But it is currently one of the big digital challenges for local public service delivery. Council websites up and down the land are trying to help people understand a myriad of services. Get it right and people self-serve. Get it wrong and they look at a website and get very frustrated. They curse where their taxes are going and dig deep for a phone number to get answers from someone at the council. The double whammy of an expensive website combined with increased demand on the frontline - not good.

We are involved in a collaborative project working with a couple of Scottish LA’s on this very challenge.

In my own personal use of the internet I am seeing a profound change in the way information and products are placed in my line of sight. It’s not just my love of cycling seeing a deluge of cool, new kit being offered to me. It’s the other things that numerous websites are concluding about me that sees them proactively offer things I hadn’t considered. They appear to be ‘listening’, recognising who I am, what makes me tick and what may be important to me. Advertising is personal, increasingly predictive and smart. It’s not perfect (look at the current short term high profile exits from YouTube recently) but it’s much smarter and more intelligent than it used to be. I’m quite sure the big brands will ensure that this trend continues. But what can we in the public sector learn from this, for improving the way we deliver our digital services?

We are starting to consider how we can incorporate some of this smart signposting into the IAG project mentioned above. How can we start to assemble information, advice and guidance such that we better predict what someone needs to know before they ask for it? More than ‘people who bought this, also liked this’, we need to start thinking about how we can use artificial intelligence to recognise patterns and make connections. This would mean that someone presenting their council with a challenge can be given the kind of help they really need - not just the help they have asked for. We are party to considerable data about our customers. We really should be able to do a truly excellent job of this but I don’t think we are yet. Given the financial limitations that we face - intelligent digital IAG is a challenge we really need to step up to.

We’re going to see if we can come up with some answers to this challenge and we will be looking to share the journey that we go on here. Stay tuned.

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