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Last week, Digital NSW announced a shift from Customer Journeys to Life Journeys. The idea is to bundle all the services we need at different times of our life, such as death, and personalise them for our needs using the latest technology. Government leaders around the world are turning to new ways of thinking and technology enablers to improve citizen’s lives and reflect the values of the communities they serve.

This shift is driven by the new Public Values Management approach which strives to embed and increase social value within every government service and every citizen touchpoint.

New ways of thinking—be it Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Lean Thinking or Service Design are not new ideas—these methods have underpinned product and service innovation in private sector organisations such as Google, PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), Toyota and AMP, for decades.

User-centred design has been applied successfully in many public sector agencies such as the ATO and the Department of Human Services for at least ten years. Pursuing innovation through policy across the whole of government, however, is a new strategy led by the Digital Transformation Agency.

Thinking Enablers

Experimentation-based policy

Traditional policy development is evidence-based and draws on historical data. Not only that, its primary purpose is to make small adjustments to existing policy. To truly transform public services and meet the needs of citizens, an agile user-centred and co-designed methodology can address and plan for the multiple factors at play in the lives of citizens today and in the future.

Policy co-design through simulation

Nesta has predicted smarter policy through simulation will feature strongly in policy development around the world. The UK government’s Policy Lab co-designs and tests visions and strategies and multiple influences through tactile games. This helps visualise and articulate ideas within a group of stakeholders.

The Lab offers methods such as:

  • Hopes and Fears Cards
  • Speculative Design
  • Policy Jams
  • Open Ideas Day
  • Paper Prototyping
  • Jams


The military have long used war-games and models to help anticipate and simulate non-linear dynamics.




Last year, the UK Policy Lab developed a tabletop activity as a consultation tool, to explore how variables such as technology, regulation and skills combined with different stakeholder perspectives might influence a strategy for the maritime industry.

UK Policy Lab



Dubbed the ‘Shipping Forecast’, the aim of the activity was for stakeholders to deliberate their visions and play out their strategies together, using the activity board, vision and technology cards, and playing pieces. Led by a Lab facilitator, the open and dynamic format allowed the policy team to observe the activities and conversations, comparing notes with their proposed policy. Each consultation activity added value for both policy teams and their stakeholders.

Future thinking

Foresight strategies such as these examine how technologies intersect with the myriad of other forces that affect communities such as political, economic, social, legal and environmental trends to improve standards of living.

Foresight methodologies are frameworks that help policy-makers interpret data generated by structured processes to assess the future.

Tactile techniques such as simulation surface individual thoughts about the future, and then allows a collective consideration of those views. As Voros (2003) indicates, organisational foresight requires thinking to move from implicit to explicit, from individual to collective, and from unconscious to conscious, before an organisation can begin to think systematically about its future and use subsequent insights in its strategy development.

These questions gather data and make sense of it so people can think in different and new ways about the future.

Design led futures

UK and New Zealand governments are using design-led thinking and methods to envision and explore ideal futures and then map a plan to reach it. The UK government has been exploring the use of speculative design to understand implications of emerging technologies by creating near future scenarios and prototypes.

Dr Janet Stephenson, Director, Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago, observes an emerging mobility trend in NZ:

“We are starting to see quite different consumer expectations about mobility, such as the perspective amongst many young people that car ownership no longer represents freedom but is a burden. The emergence of flexible options for personal mobility, such as shared vehicles, and (before long) smart autonomous vehicles that can be available on demand, may create a new mobility option that is neither public transport nor a private vehicle but something of each. If this proves to be attractive, it will have major implications for future levels of road use and provision of road infrastructure, as well as settlement patterns.”


Technology Enablers

Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

The most exciting development in public transport since multi-modal ticketing systems is Mobility as a Service. Driven by changing consumer expectations, the rising cost of car ownership as well as the gig and digital economies, governments are facilitating transport sharing in place of publicly funded transport.

Singapore has crowdsourced its bus service since 2015. Beeline, the demand-driven shared transit service transports commuters directly to their destination with the help of mobile technology and analytics. developed by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) offers unlimited flexibility in partnership with private operators. Insights from transportation data and community demand generate bus routes. It offers a practical, more convenient alternative to crowded peak period public buses or trains and the more expensive taxi or private car options.

Digital Policy Labs

Many governments and private organisations around the world are exploring new approaches to people-centred service delivery through digitally enabled service integration. The New Zealand, Australian and Estonian governments are investigating how to make policy, legislation, and the business rules of government not just human and machine readable but machine understandable. This is a big step toward interoperability as modelled by E-estonia.

Turning the logic of these rules into reusable, machine consumable programmatic logic at source supports service innovation by both government and third parties (including artificial intelligence).

The possibility of delivering machine consumable rules is the next big step to government digital transformation.

The New Zealand government have produced several services in this way including:


Government as a Platform (GaaP)

Government as a platform is a holistic approach, in which the public sector collaborates with private sector partners, citizens and even robots to create better outcomes. A seamless interplay of capabilities such as analytics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality can bring this possibility to life. The over-arching objective is to create more efficient, impactful and secure public services.

  • Data currency
    Data is the foundation of public-private collaboration around service delivery, economic and social development and innovation.
  • A one-door service
    Common services, technology architecture and governance create efficiencies that streamline user experiences for a one-door service.
  • Network effect
    Consumers and producers collaborate in a virtual marketplace, creating value for each other, which means better outcomes for citizens and society.
  • Scale multiplier
    Agencies scale impact without investment as organisations tap others’ skills, ideas and distribution networks—no ownership required.


Technology, combined with new ways of thinking are driving the development of more user-centric public services globally, by facilitating a closer fit between citizen needs and delivery. Agile user-centred and co-designed methodology has the potential to massively increase social value by predicting future citizen needs. Automation, AI and blockchain are amplifying service outcomes, even reducing the need for citizen interaction with government services. Meanwhile, legislation as code is transforming government infrastructure by making business rules machine consumable and increasing interoperability across agencies. The story doesn’t end there. The Australian government is slowly moving to a holistic Government as a Platform (GaaP) model through close collaboration with the private sector. The aim is to find better efficiencies, integration and value generation. In many ways, the future of public policy is one of massive reform, all thanks to the power of code.

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