How citizen-centric are your city’s digital services?

Blog post
Angelos Balatsas-Lekkas,
Katri Grenman

Even before the pandemic, public services at all government levels have been undergoing digital transformation. Alongside with benefits such as cost-reduction and the decrease in service time, service digitalization brings along new roles for governments: Instead of just providing services to citizens, national governments but also local authorities become key actors in the design of new digital services, the improvement of existing ones and the adoption of services by relevant social groups. Therefore, it is crucial to develop vantage points from which the needs and expectations of citizens can be continuously monitored and responded to.  

At the EU member state level, recent ministerial declarations on eGovernment (Tallinn, 2017) and Digital Society and Value-Based Digital Government (Berlin, 2020) have set the basis for addressing citizen needs and expectations about digital public services. More specifically, the eGovernment Declaration includes a concrete commitment of ministers in charge of policy and coordination of digital public services on designing and delivering their services, guided by a set of principles on user-centricity. 

Since the end of 2020, VTT partakes in UserCentriCities, a nine-partner consortium funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme and driven by six cities and regions. Supported by Eurocities, the largest association of European cities and led by the Lisbon Council, a Brussels based think tank, the project formally launches its activities towards making European cities and local authorities more user-centric. With the participation of Espoo, Milan, Rotterdam, Tallinn, Murcia, Emilia Romagna Region, and a continuously growing number of interested EU cities to join the project activities, this unique initiative aims at delivering a better buy-in of the Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment by local authorities.

To succeed in this, the project will develop a set of common indicators and a dashboard to benchmark progress, as well as a toolkit and mutual learning activities to share insight.

The first step taken by the project was to understand city needs about user-centricity monitoring but also about mapping existing measurements that could be used as the basis for designing common user-centricity indicators. Findings from a VTT-led descriptive survey that was shared among consortium members and interested cities show that:  

  • While user-centricity of digital services seems to be of importance for all cities, there is a lack of a common definition. In addition, multiple interpretations of the notion exist within most organizations. 
  • Currently, cities do not have methods and tools that specifically focus on measuring the user-centricity of their services. However, each city has measurements that partially capture the citizen perspective about the performance of its services. Yet, such measurements vary between the cities.  
  • Website analytics are widely used by cities for assessing performance of digital services. Related measurements help cities to track accessibility, usability, and digital interaction. 
  • A lot of data, relevant to user-centricity measurement, is already automatically collected by cities. However, not every organization has a clear overview of the collected data. 
  • Not all social groups partake equally in the development and use of digital public services. For example, some of the cities reported challenges to engage young people, immigrants or people who do not speak the local language in citizen engagement activities connected to the development and use of digital services.  

The above-mentioned findings set the basis for the next activities of UserCentriCities: They support the project group to define the measurement and monitoring gaps to be addressed by the common indicators and the dashboard and bring focus on substance-related topics to be addressed through a series of 5 interactive peer-to-peer workshops.    

Stay tuned! 

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Katri Grenman

Katri Grenman

Research Scientist
Angelos BalatsasLekkas

Angelos Balatsas-Lekkas

Senior Scientist
Industries