Pandemic reveals increasing expectation in Northern Ireland for online access to public services

The first post COVID-19 public survey released by Civica, a global leader in software for public services, has reinforced that:

• Almost half of Northern Irish adults (49%) say they want to use digital tech more frequently following lockdown

• One third of citizens surveyed believe the public sector could make better use of digital technology to enhance their lives. 

Led by a national impetus for better digital technologies and reliable online services, the survey shows the ‘need to connect' is now embedded. Public appetite for use of technology and online services has undergone a distinct shift and public sector organisations need to recognise and work with this change.

The research is revealed in a new Civica Changing Landscape report, ‘Passing the tipping point for digital: the nudge effect of the pandemic’.

The report is based on key findings from senior leadership forums and two new sets of research from more than 2,000 citizens across Northern Ireland. It explores how public sector organisations throughout the region must recognise and capitalise on this digital momentum to re-shape the delivery of public services for the future.

The report also found: 
• Almost half (46%) of surveyed citizens believe digital technologies can connect the community or improve the lives of citizens following the pandemic
• 26% claim they trust government services more following the pandemic

Mark Owens, Managing Director at Civica Northern Ireland explained: “This is a comprehensive survey of attitudes to online engagement with public services. It shows that the government can respond in record time to deliver effective software such as the COVID-19 NI symptom tracker information app and recent track and trace version.

“But we cannot wait for a crisis to deepen before we recognise that we have the technology to give remote access to vital services such as GP appointments, manage socially distanced out-patient services or provide personalised benefits support. Plus, the public is clearly telling us that they want these services online and will use them.”

The report also calls for the Northern Irish government to support affordable and reliable broadband, as well as fast tracking procurement of user-friendly government software and apps. This will make it easier, particularly for older people, to access the services they need online.

“The challenge now is for public and private sector leaders in NI to continue to invest in initiatives designed to meet the growing demand in all areas of life. To support communities, people and employees on the difficult road ahead. For public sector leaders to successfully lead these initiatives, we need collaboration, closer partnerships with digital suppliers and a procurement framework that puts the citizens’ needs above all else,” Mark added.

Working with a number of Northern Ireland’s main public sector bodies, such as The Department of Health NI, NI Direct and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Civica supports organisations that deliver essential everyday services to rapidly transform their customer experience, improve operational efficiency and enhance performance.

‘Passing the tipping point for digital: the nudge effect of the pandemic’ is the latest instalment in Civica’s Changing Landscape series of reports. 

To read more about the new report, please visit www.civica.co.uk/digital-ni-2020.