Would you tweet an emergency?

Would you tweet an emergency?

According to the London Fire Brigade, it may soon be possible to tweet emergencies instead of phoning the emergency services, which is currently not encouraged as social media is not monitored 24/7.

Would you tweet an emergency, or would you prefer to speak to someone over the phone? Would you feel reassured by this system?

Read the rest of the article on DigitalByDefaultNews.co.uk by clicking on the brave firemen above!

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BDUK – anyone for monopoly?

BDUK – anyone for monopoly?

Broadband Delivery UK is a unit within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and has, in recent months, been dominating the news (within the outsourcing space, anyway). So we all know that, thus far, BT has won every single contract for the scheme. There just doesn’t seem to be any competition, and there have long since been fears of a monopoly.
People worry about monopolies, because they have the potential to lend themselves to overpricing and a lack of diversity in the market.
Is it all bad?
Maybe, if BT is running all the contracts, that means they really know what they’re doing. Maybe the firm has won the contracts because it is, after all, figuratively speaking, the best man for the job?
It all remains to be seen. Fingers crossed for 2015 everyone, here’s hoping we have the best broadband speeds in Europe by then!

Click on the Monopoly board to read about the latest BDUK deal won by BT on digitalbydefaultnews.com!

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Experts argue over whether NHS should go fully digital by default or not

Does NHS need to improve digital dialogue with patients?

The Public Service Events’ NHS Informatics conference took place recently, where industry experts discussed the issue of whether the NHS needed to improve on its “digital dialogue with patients” – providing them with digital information about their health and how to manage it themselves – or whether it should not go fully digital by default, instead opting for a digital first approach.

According to Dr Charles Gutteridge, the national clinical director for informatics at the Department of Health, data in the NHS was still displayed in ways that “are incredibly old-fashioned”.

We have to portray data in ways that ordinary people can understand and that makes my work as a professional easier,” he said, adding that this would not in any way diminish the role of doctors.

Giles Wilmore, director of patient and public voice and information at the NHS Commissioning Board Authority, agrees with this stance: “Patients that are able to access their record online become much more informed about their own health and care and in control of the choices they make. That improves their quality of experience and outcome and also the efficiency and smooth running of the system,” he said.

However, Phil Walker, head of digital information policy at the Department of Health, does not want to give control of records to citizens: “They may be able to add to them, they may be able comment on them, they may be equal partners in how they develop. But they cannot control.”

He believes that the NHS cannot fully embrace the government’s digital by default agenda, rather it should modernise services by making services ‘digital first’ while also giving patients the option of how they want to communicate with NHS, make appointments etc – by phone, by going to their clinic or online.

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The UK can learn from Estonia’s public sector digital services: Mike Bracken

Estonia has an incredible open source culture, says Bracken

Mike Bracken, executive director of  Government Digital Service, recently visited Estonia with Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and other members of the government and believes the UK has much to learn from Estonia’s ‘digital by default’ public services.

There were five main points that impressed him most about Estonia’s delivery of e-services. Firstly, its engineer-led culture, where engineers are given free rein to design services for the web with no particular requirements to fulfil, working solely on the “principle of quick and cheap”.

Secondly, Estonians have accepted the use of ID cards which are used to access public services. The UK’s privacy lobby and its citizens in general are suspicious of such cards (and perhaps rightly so, he adds) making it harder to validate themselves.

Further, Bracken feels that he “can see an unnecessary, macho attitude from the system integrator culture” while Estonian developers do not “see themselves as tech leaders” and are, on the contrary, extremely humble.

The other thing that impressed Bracken was the many small companies who had a long-term investment in digital services. He believes that the UK should “ensure that those companies who have been excluded from the procurement process in the past are brought into the supplier network for the benefit of both government and our overall growth agenda in the UK.”

And finally, what he believes is holding the UK back and restricting progress is something common in Estonia: an open source culture; licensed software is “almost an alien concept” and used in core databases in the latter, but considered risky in the former.

Bracken does admit that Estonia has an advantage in that it is very small, “the size of Birmingham”, and has remarkable broadband and Wi-Fi infrastructure, but even so he thinks the UK should try to follow its example in achieving the government’s ‘digital by default’ agenda.

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Research on how best to go ‘digital by default’ could be useful for councils

Organisations should offer “true channel choice” – opening up all communication routes

Research by Customer management specialists Ember Services has shown that while it is good for organisations to use online channels to communicate with customers, customers must have the option to choose the route they want to take rather than having it being imposed on them, otherwise the organisation could lose out.

While it has been established that interacting with customers via the internet rather than phone calls or face-to face is cheaper, new research by Ember, who examined the multi-channel strategies of over thirty UK businesses, shows that if people are forced into going online to complete a task, they may end up alienating users.

Mike Harvard, director of Ember, recently gave a talk where he spoke about the importance of offering “true channel choice” – making all communication routes open and easy to access – while encouraging the online option, which he believes will reap considerable economic benefits as well as help the organisation to build a reputation for “positive customer engagement”.

Furthermore, “multi-channel response gives you the opportunity to eliminate failure, reduce demand and create a more efficient management of the contact.”

National Rail Enquiries was given as a successful example of digital migration: “Five years ago they had one of the busiest phone lines in the UK with over 75m calls a year. Five years later that has been reduced to just 2 million calls a year now, but overall customer engagement has increased five-fold,” Harvard said.

Included in his tips to go ‘digital by default’ was the importance of keeping the online communication channel simple and easy to use, as well as innovating (using videos, web chat etc).

Some statistics:

Only 18% of the organisations who want to use social media to assist in customer services actually do so

80% of first contact happens online and this percentage is rising.

37% of customers who don’t instantly have their queries resovled online decide to call the organisation.

The young generation use phone services 30% less than the older generation

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How the public sector can achieve ‘digital by default’

Public services need to be redesigned to meet digital needs

Having public sector services that are ‘digital by default’  will require “better skills, better technology, and above all a mindset that revolves around the user and the citizen”, writes Chris Yiu, head of the Digital Government Unit at Policy Exchange.

He points out that instead of revamping current services and making them available online, services need to be redesigned from scratch and their availability online should be first priority, “with a backstop for situations where an offline channel is still needed.” To this end, the government, both central and local, must be willing to seek help from experts and the private sector. They must also be willing to make the most of crowdsourcing, whereby tasks are outsourced to a group of people who may not necessarily lie within the government framework – this will enable the policymaking process to become more open.

He concludes that government staff must be prepared to deal with an increasingly digitalised world to deliver quality public services online and give taxpayers greater value for their money.

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