The government is becoming more digital. Citizens want the government to understand them and to show compassion. The human contact between the two is delegated to “the system”. How can the digital government have an compassionate connection with people? As a researcher at the Education Executive Agency (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, DUO), and as a student at the Willem de Kooning Academy, I’m looking into this digital relationship.
Getting empathy back in our service
Students can apply for a student loan at DUO. And DUO manages all kinds of educational data from citizens and institutions. Almost all services for students are fully automated. Students can arrange everything themselves via our digital services. In theory, no official needs to be involved. Except for the fact that we, as civil servants, make those digital services. If both parties no longer talk to each other except via a computer, how can there be a genuine connection? In my work as a researcher, I often wondered if we’re losing the connection and if citizens feel understood by us. If we ignore this, we build up debt in our services. Not a technical debt, but an empathy debt.
the understanding civil servant
I photograph my colleagues at DUO as an understanding civil servant. Who are you as a person and what role does compassion play in your work? Together we look at the result. Do you want to change something? I publish the stories on my research blog. All portraits together call for reflection. Together we look at our image. Is this how we want to be as a compassionate digital government?
Meet and greet
During the International Design in Government Conference you can ‘meet’ my colleagues at the compassionate civil servants exhibition. You can join their conversation by writing your own ‘compassion card’. Meet us at the Marketplace!
On Wednesday at 12:00h I will also give a talk about this project (Let’s bring empathy back into the heart of digital government) and show more background material about this compassionate conversation we’re having at DUO.
If you’d like to know more about this project, you can read more on Maike’s research blog: klipklaar.nl (Dutch only)