Coming Soon: Hyper-personalized Government

In our fast-paced environment, users want to avoid barriers and are turning to predictive services to complete daily tasks, especially in government services.

Originally published on the Government Experience portal on February 10, 2019 under the title ‘What Governments Can Learn from Hyper-Personalization’

By Xische Editorial, February 10, 2019

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What is Google’s trick? The tech giant that has come to be synonymous with the internet serendipitously discovered the secret to its own success in the early 2000s. Focused on delivering search results, Google engineers realized they were collecting a massive amount of data about users. That data allowed the company to sell highly targeted ads at a premium. Google was the vehicle to become one of history’s most successful advertisers.

Underlying this story is the way hyper-personalization drives the modern internet. The more we use the internet for everything from social media to buying cat food, the more information we hand over to companies. The information about our habits feeds into a highly accurate picture of ourselves that is sold to advertisers looking for a massive return on investment for their adverts. While it might seem scary to think of the internet as humanity’s greatest surveillance experiment created for the sole purpose of advertising, hyper-personalization is here to stay. Government’s looking to perfect their service offerings might want to take a page from Google’s playbook and consider their own forms of hyper-personalization.

This is about more than just learning who your customers are in order to provide a better product. Rather, government services have to offer residents something they feel benefits their lives in a meaningful way. Let’s use the Google example again to highlight this point. Gone are the days of Google only being a search portal on the internet. Today Google offers everything from email to collaborative work tools. It offers these services for free and has been successful in tying together various aspects of our online lives to collect the maximum amount of data about us.

How many of us start our day by opening Google’s Chrome web browser to check our Gmail and possibly look for directions through Google Maps for a lunch restaurant. Google has created a viable ecosystem facilitated by services that people genuinely want to use.

Obviously, governments aren’t going to offer email services of their own (although it wouldn’t be surprising if Estonia dabbled in this idea) but Google’s idea of creating products people want to use in order to get their attention is a compelling one. Let’s consider one hypothetical example: the weather.

Around the world, governments offer the best weather information available. Services applications that include weather information direct from the source would be a popular way to get residents to download official government applications. With Dubai’s push towards smart city infrastructure and its creative embrace of smartphone applications for government services, the inclusion of accurate weather prediction would be one way to get residents excited about engaging with the applications.

While the inclusion of handy extras like the weather might entice people to download an application in the first place, the hyper-personalization of services is what will retain them. Just as Google uses the information it knows about you to tailor its services and advertisements, governments services must personalize their offering too. This could be in the form of government offices having flexible hours or giving residents the ability to handle most transactions online (and without the need for disruption to their day). The more data governments collect about their residents, the more personalized their service offerings can become.

Borrowing another page from the technology giant’s playbook, governments need to store data in ways that are accessible for government offices or entities. Using blockchain technology, which is an indelible digital ledger, to store vital information is both secure and assists in reaching this goal. Through blockchain a government passport office and motor vehicles department could easily access data about citizens without the need for confusion or delay. Through its centralized servers, Google essentially allows users the same privilege. If I want to access one of my photos stored on Google’s servers, for example, I can do so in Gmail, Google Photos, or Google Drive with the same ease.

In short, government services from municipal functions to public parking must be streamlined, intuitive, and easy to use. In our fast-paced environment, users want to avoid barriers and are turning to predictive services to complete daily tasks. Governments have struggled to convince users to hand over the same amount of data they willingly give to a company like Google because individuals do not see the same return on their investment. This, in turn, hampers governments’ ability to deliver better services and perpetuates a negative feedback cycle. If governments figure out just 10% of Google's secret, then we might see some quality improvements to the government services experience.