How New Technologies Are Improving Public Services

With the increasing availability of smartphones and connected devices, the general public expects to be able to interact with public service providers in the same way that they do with businesses. In an effort to provide this, agencies are using the latest technologies to find new and better ways to engage with the public and to deliver the services that local communities want. Here, we’ll examine some of the ways that new technologies are making this happen.

Smart ticketing solutions for public transport

The development of smart technology has changed the expectations of public transport users. In a recent survey by PWC, far more people (46 per cent) expressed a preference for technologies such as smart card tickets than for traditional paper tickets (34 per cent).

Smart cards, such as MIFARE cards provide benefits for both the traveller and the public transport network. A single card can be used seamlessly across all transport providers and on trains, buses and trams, reducing administration costs and easing the burden on the user.

The ability to pay for a journey just by tapping a smart card speeds up the onboarding of passengers considerably in comparison to paying by cash, making it more convenient for travellers and enabling providers to maintain schedules and reduce journey times.

Increasing community engagement

There are several ways technology is being implemented to increase community engagement with public service providers. On a national level, online services now enable citizens to start petitions to government and to drum up support for these using social media. In addition, many of the services provided by HMRC and DVLA are also available online.

At a local level, apps are being developed to enable community engagement and to assist with improving council services. The FixMyStreet app, for instance, lets local residents report issues such as dog fouling, fly tipping, potholes and broken traffic lights.

These channels of communication enable citizens to feel involved in their community and reduce the number of complaints that councils receive. More importantly, by integrating the app with local authority IT systems, councils can address issues earlier and, by reducing the number of phone calls, make better use of staffing.

Helping the public get the services they require

The provision of online platforms is enabling users to connect with public service providers in easier and more efficient ways whilst improving outcomes at the same time. One example is with people who have difficulty with mobility and who need repeat prescriptions. Today, they are able to order their prescriptions online through their GP’s secure portal and, once the prescription is signed, it is electronically sent to their preferred chemist who will deliver the medicines to their door. This reduces the surgery’s workload whilst removing the burden on the patient.  

Beyond the NHS, other platforms include GetMyFirstJob.co.uk, which aims to help young people find the most appropriate apprenticeship scheme, and Scout, which is designed to help children with a disability access the services they need. Many councils also provide online platforms where local residents can order and pay for services, such as replacement recycling boxes, parking permits and rubbish removal.

AI public assistants

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential to bring benefits to public services both in terms of reducing costs and in improving outcomes for users. For instance, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is beginning to use AI for helping customers and to prevent fraud.

AI is being used to improve services by providing staff with a comprehensive overview of a client’s situation, eradicating the need for them to repeat the same information and thus cutting down handling time. They are also developing online help for job seekers that uses AI to predict the most appropriate forms of support they need.

With regard to preventing fraud, the DWP is trialling the use of AI algorithms that can detect fraudulent claims by identifying patterns in behaviour, these include finding commonalities in handwriting, writing style and linked phone numbers. With the advent of speech recognition, this can also be expanded to find fraudulent clues in telephone conversations.

The intelligent neighbourhood

Local councils are beginning to take advantage of the increasing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices being developed. Smart traffic sensors, for example, are able to improve traffic flows through urban areas at busy times, automating the length at which traffic lights operate so that congestion is kept to a minimum.

With waste disposal, there are now sensors which can be placed into bins which inform removers when there is a need to empty them. This means that time isn’t wasted emptying bins which don’t need it and full bins are dealt with before they become a hazard.

Public CCTV is another technology bringing benefits. Modern CCTV systems are IoT connected and can track suspects seamlessly from camera to camera. They also have facial recognition technology that can be used by police to identify anyone with a criminal record. Being internet connected also means that councils can operate all their CCTV cameras from a single centre, reducing overheads and staffing costs.

Summing upFrom smart card ticketing to AI, technology is benefitting public service providers and the general public in many ways. It extends and enhances the services already in place, enables new services to be created and increases accessibility and engagement with those services. In doing so, it improves the outcome for citizens whilst helping providers operate more efficiently.   

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