New research project at ITU: How can we make digitalization of the public sector a citizen driven project?
The lack of user participation in the digitalization of the public sector in the Nordic countries blocks a truly successful digital transformation. The aim of the new research project CAPE is to investigate how to increase user involvement in the development of public e-services.
Office clerk: “We’re digital by default.”
Daniel Blake: “Yeah? Well, I’m pencil by default.”
The above exchange from Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ from 2016, eloquently pinpoints how many people experience digitalization of the public sector. The film portrays Daniel Blake’s struggle against bureaucracy, when he finds himself on the wrong side of the digital divide, hampered by his lack of digital skills, since public e-services is the only available communication channel with the authorities.
- There is a digital divide in today’s society with many Daniel Blake’s, for example among the elderly and in immigrant communities. We know from research that design of public e-services is a domain where user involvement is lacking. We want to explore new models for service design that can help bridge the digital divide, says associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Jörn Christiansson.
Jörn Christiansson is the principal investigator of the research project CAPE (Civic Agency in Public E-service innovation) tasked with addressing these issues. The project seeks to improve current e-services and realise the potential in user-driven development of future services.
The research group will explore a new approach to public e-service design with Civic Innovation Centres (CICs); a novel innovation facility, where citizens engage in co-design of improvements to existing public e-services and co-design of new service innovations. The CICs will be hosted in public libraries, as an integrated part of their existing facilities for public engagement, in order to tap into the immense resource of active library visitors. By analysing and documenting innovation activities in the CICs, the research group will describe the innovation processes and develop best practices and solutions.
- In Scandinavia, we have a strong tradition of user involvement in design, also known as Participatory Design. Rooted in the 1970s and 1980s, Participatory Design was based on a democratic commitment to ensure that workers would have a say in the design of new information technology in their workplaces. At the time, the design movement empowered workers, but it is much more widely applicable today, as digitalization has made e-services the only communication channel with the authorities, says Jörn Christiansson.
The CAPE project is financed by Nordforsk – an organisation under the Nordic Council – and includes partners and projects in Sweden and Finland. The international research group has a total budget of 1.488.758 euros and over the next three years, the researchers will create knowledge on how to include members of the public who like Daniel Blake have not experienced public e-services as an improvement on communication with the authorities:
- Our long-term goal is to establish permanent facilities at public libraries where citizens can help create service innovation alongside service developers. Through existing library networks, we believe this project is scalable across the Nordic countries and beyond. Part of the project is a web-based shared repository with service solutions, best practices and knowledge on drivers for digitalization as open source. We hope this will be used not only by the public at large and service developers, but also by policy makers and other researchers, says Jörn Christiansson.
• IT University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
• Aalborg University Copenhagen (Denmark)
• Ballerup Library (Denmark)
• Malmö University (Sweden)
• Malmö City Library (Sweden)
• Aalto University (Finland)
• Helsinki City Library (Finland)
Learn more about the CAPE project at the Nordforsk website
Jari Kickbusch, phone 7218 5304, email firstname.lastname@example.org