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Stepan Doubrava and Jakub Franc of ExperienceU (Czech Republic), argues on the Global User Research blog for the proper use of user-centred design principles in eGovernment projects.

“eGovernment, or the transfer of government activities to the Internet [...] brings with it a number of clear benefits for both citizens and civil servants. Electronic bureaus can be open 24 hours a day, citizens can communicate with them from anywhere, and electronic forms can be interactive and provide help when being filled in. By eliminating communication barriers, eGovernment enables citizens to participate in greater measure in civic matters, which supports the democratic principle.

Other advantages include the fact that information is in electronic form from the very beginning (eliminating manual data entry from paper forms), human resources can be coordinated more effectively (data processing can be distributed to various regions and outsourced), and electronic communication can reduce costs significantly.

However, from our field’s perspective, there is a serious problem, namely the ability of all citizens to cope with and accept electronic communication with authorities. One must realize the rapidly growing demands for technological skills, and the differences between individuals in this context. [...]

It would be advisable to concentrate more on user research, thoroughly define user needs, motivations and roles at the beginning of the project, and perform periodic usability testing during implementation.”

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