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Chris Doutney: Citizens believe in data, but they need trust

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Every innovation which brings about change creates issues around trust.

That’s why in the era of increased data sharing and growing concerns around data privacy, public sector organisations recognise the need to work hard to create a solid foundation of trust to enable them to innovate.

This will not be an easy task. So at a recent leadership forum, we gathered key decision makers across local government, housing, health and finance to discuss it.

There is a long-held assumption that citizens are hesitant to trust authorities with their information. However, recent Civica research found that more than half (53%) of citizens would have greater trust in organisations if they were more transparent about the personal data they store and how they use it.

Our research also found that the main issues surrounding the sharing of data centred on the security of how data is held, and the lack of control data subjects have over it.

One common misconception is that more education is needed around promoting the benefits of data sharing to encourage trust. The issue is much more complex than this.

Arguably citizens already know these benefits and in some cases overwhelmingly support data sharing.

However, citizens are used to an Amazon-level style of personalisation where their data is used to provide them with a tailored service. This creates a challenge for the public sector to show the same capability and earn the same level of trust.

There are, of course, examples of local authorities doing this well. At the leadership forum we heard from Carol Cutler, director of business transformation and customer services at Harrow LBC.

At Harrow the council created authenticated customer accounts where the citizen could choose which services they wished to have digitised, letting them create their own customised portal. The various responses from residents proved you cannot force a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach on your citizens.

The public sector cannot make assumptions about what citizens want and expect. Everyone has different levels of what they are willing to share, and how many services they want to access digitally.

But all the shining examples we heard had one salient thing in common – they brought citizens on a journey with them.

It’s not just about educating citizens on the reasons for and benefits of change. It’s also about close consultation and working together to co-create sustainable solutions to maintain a strong foundation of trust.

Chris Doutney, executive director, Civica Digital

Column sponsored and supplied by Civica

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