As a user researcher working closely with the public sector, I’m passionate about what digital projects could do to transform all aspects of life, both in the UK and beyond; from how the education departments calculate funding for thousands of schools around the world, to making sure that individuals find it easy to know when they can get a doctor’s appointment.

I view the whole general population as users of government and dominant companies.

Over the last few years, I’ve come across a common theme around data and user experiences. In short, many experiences that could be enhanced by effective data management, are sloppy – and that’s putting it lightly.
 


 

Here are three examples of experiences that could be improved by enhanced data management, with some ideas for sorting them out:

  • Booking a doctor’s appointment.

    The experience:

    I’m surrounded by GP Practices. Sometimes, the GP that I’m registered with is busy and I can’t get an appointment. Why is it therefore not possible for me to book at an alternative practice that may have available appointments? There are a whole host of reasons why I might not want to do this but putting the choice in my hands allows me work around this problem if I so desire.

    The idea:

    Sharing data between all elements of the NHS by storing and managing patient data digitally, efficiently and in an accessible way could help to solve this problem, of course, with privacy strongly in mind. Probably saving a lot of time and money in the process. If all GPs in my local area had access to my information, I could get the appointment with any of them and hopefully be seen sooner. This could also help to priorities more urgent appointments by allowing practices the option of delegation.

  • Organising my finances.

    The experience:

    I have multiple current accounts, credit cards and savings accounts. I like to change where I keep all of these so I can take advantage of the best deals as much as I can. Each of these stores my data and displays it to me in a variety of ways meaning I have to spend significant time looking at each, every month to work out where I stand budget wise.

    The idea:

    Collecting all of this data together for me and reengineering it in a clear and real-time manner would mean that I could gain an instant understanding of where I’m at, money-wise, helping me make sustainable financial decisions. Partial solutions do already exist to this problem, with open banking meaning there are more on the way. A bank that offered this as part of the service and set it up at the touch of a button would be the cherry on the cake.

  • Knowing where my taxes are spent.

    The experience:

    I pay my taxes each month, where they go, I do not know exactly; although the government have made moves towards transparency in this area. Much as with my personal finances, it would be great if I could have an instant understanding of what this money is being spent on, and how else it could be spent if I was to vote differently at the next general election. I imagine the treasury would find such instant feedback useful for modelling and forecasting too.

    The idea:

    Opening up precise national spending data (in real time, on demand) could enhance our democracy greatly, making financial obfuscation by governments (or prospective ones) a thing of the past. For this to happen, departmental data models need to be simplified and integrated across departments. Meaning that I can start to really vote with my head and not my gut. Winner.

 

The democratization and effective management of data by and for users could do wonders with just these three examples, for millions of us. There are lots of hurdles and regulations to comply within reaching solutions, not to mention GDPR – but these should not present insurmountable obstacles or excuses to not do better. As users we should be asking for our data to be managed more effectively by organisations that we share our information with in order to reap the benefits and force change – why settle for anything less?

Just imagine the other opportunities out there. We’d better get back to work.

For more information email Jack Stevenson here.