SecurityBrief Asia - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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Governments and citizens want simple, smooth, and secure interactions
Fri, 25th Aug 2023

In a recent survey that spanned six countries, Entrust found that while progress is being made in the way that governments and citizens interact, there is definitely room for improvement.

The vast majority of respondents (82.4%) interact with governments between one and five times each year, pursuing typical outcomes: a driver's license, paying taxes, and travelling. It's no surprise that more than one in three respondents (34.4%) prefer the convenience of web portals over more traditional interaction methods such as mail (2.6%) and in-person (16.0%). While preferences favour digital interactions, governments still must deliver the services and the credentials that citizens require, offering both digital and physical options. This ensures equal access to services and meets the preferences of its citizens and service providers alike.

Governments are paying attention and taking action

To meet the evolving needs of its citizens, governments are working with the private sector to deliver the outcomes citizens require. On the whole, the system is heading towards a simple, smooth, and secure user experience from entry into the system through the issuance of credentials and completing the required transactions, all relying on a single chain of trust that ensures the privacy and security of personal information and government systems.

Australia's MyGov portal, for example, brings many facets of interaction together in one place, including Medicare and the Australian Taxation Office.

Similarly, New Zealand's Digital.govt.nz website provides a wide range of information and services about the digital transformation of the country's government, including regular blogs, news updates, and general information on advancements like the use of Generative AI in the public service.

Overall, respondents rated their last government interaction at 6.9 on a 10-point scale. But when it comes to their last digital interaction, only 30.0% of respondents rated those interactions as positive. While a 6.9 overall rating isn't terrible by any means, there's room for improvement. It is also telling that only a third of the citizens surveyed, who are moving to faster and more convenient methods of interaction, were left with a positive impression. There's clearly work to be done.

What do citizens expect and how can governments improve?

In the countries surveyed, improving customer service is important to respondents. Many governments know it's time to step up and simplify end-user experiences, as well as drive operational efficiencies and greater security. For example, Vietnam has issued 50 million chip-based digital ID cards with embedded biometrics, replacing the outdated barcode-based national ID cards. Equipped with biometric and digital signing capabilities, the new cards are expected to be more secure, seamless, and standardised for citizens.

Undoubtedly, phone calls, mail, and in-person interactions with their government will remain among people's preferences, and governments have the responsibility to make these services equally available to all. Citizens must have digital, physical, and hybrid credentials to fulfil the outcomes they're after, and the Entrust survey responses bear that out. People are asking for quick, convenient services at their fingertips.

The ACT Revenue Office in Australia, for example, cut response times for refunds by 90% through the creation of a new customer portal. This also reduced emails by 65% and cut out 90,000 paper letters being sent to citizens.

Below is how respondents ranked what is important to them:

No.

Feature

Australia

Global

1

Service when and where its needed

59%

55%

2

Secure, easy, and convenient identity verification

58%

53%

3

Self-service capabilities

53%

44%

4

Customer data privacy and security is a priority

53%

49%

5

Ability to track progress      

50%

44%

6

Consistent user experience across government organisations

39%

36%

7

Online forms

38%

43%

8

Engage on behalf of others

10%

8%

Overall, we can deduce from this that people are expecting the same level of customer experience they've come to expect from their favourite retailers and banks. They want interactions to be simple, smooth, and secure.

Getting to simple, smooth, and secure. There's good news and bad news.

The bad news is that from a technical perspective, simple, smooth, and secure experiences crash head-on into:

  • Legacy apps
  • Multiple independent solution providers
  • A growing and dynamic threat landscape

The good news is that the challenges presented on the journey to becoming simple, smooth, and secure are being overcome, and improvements are within reach.

Composable systems challenge legacy models and introduce modularity, removing the restrictions of rigid software development practices and allowing organisations to quickly design, build, manage, and change systems as the needs of organisations evolve. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs) address connectivity to legacy systems and stem the proliferation of vendors and costs, simplifying and streamlining the citizen experience.

As such, systems become easier to deploy, maintain, and scale.

A single chain of trust reduces the attack surface and keeps citizen information safe.

Indeed, enabling the right credentials for the right transaction means no citizen is left behind. People get what they need for the outcome they seek, leading to happier citizens and increased trust in their government.