The Welsh Government is investing £4.9 million to improve digital public services so that they are easier and slicker for people to use.
One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic has been that many more people have needed or chosen to access public services online, and this has already driven the transformation of some digital services. An example of this has seen Neath Port Talbot Council working with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils, and supported by the Centre for Digital Public Services, on a project to improve people’s experience of accessing adult social care services online. First-hand insights from users and social care staff are being used to develop better digital services including improvements to the referral process.
Meanwhile, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s work to use digital automation to process applications for free school meals has resulted in a much speedier process. Working with the private sector, the local authority can now ensure that eligible school children are accepted on to the free school meals programme on the day of their application.
This development has been invaluable during the pandemic when demand for free school meals has surged and as a result many more children have begun receiving healthy and nutritious meals delivered direct to their doorstep.
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, has said he wants this £4.9 million investment in digital public services to drive more innovative and user friendly approaches across Wales.
The funding will be directed to the Centre for Digital Public Services, which was established last year to transform the design and delivery of digital public services. The investment will support specialised training programmes and digital squads who will work with public sector organisations and help them to drive up their digital knowledge and improve their online services. This will help ensure that people accessing public service digitally can have an experience that is as easy and user friendly as when they shop or bank online.
The funding is part of Welsh Government’s Digital Strategy for Wales which is being ‘crowdsourced’ to test ideas and gather new suggestions. The strategy will determine how Welsh Government harnesses digital, data, technology and AI now and in the future to benefit people in Wales.
Waters said: “Digital is now a central part of all our lives and that has never been more evident than during the pandemic. It is crucial that our public services evolve to meet the changing expectations of the people who need and use them, and that they are as simple to use and intuitive as many of the services we access when we are online shopping or providing our energy meter readings.
“We want people to be able to easily access the services they want through a few clicks of the mouse or taps of the screen. This means ensuring that first class digital services become the norm in our public services and this investment in skills, leadership and standards will be key to helping us achieve that goal.”