In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

iVote: GOV.UK and the Government Digital Service

Registering to vote can be done quickly and easily through GOV.UK. (Source: GOV.UK)

Registering to vote can be done quickly and easily through GOV.UK. (Source: GOV.UK)

Along with late nights buried in revision notes, one of the traits of student life I found was regularly moving from home to sweet home. Unfortunately, this trait can overhang a little while after the mortar board has been thrown.

I realised I was no longer registered to vote at my latest, fantastic house. This is not uncommon. Labour leader Ed Miliband said in a speech:

In the last year, almost one million people have fallen off the Electoral Register, hundreds of thousands of them young people. This is a direct consequence of the government’s decision to ignore warnings that rushing through new individual registration reforms would damage democracy. It has.

Quick Registration

I went onto the UK government website. Within a few minutes, I logged my desire to be readded to the Electoral Register. It may seem strange to digital denizens – who read newspapers and blogs online, shop online, watch videos online and post photos of cats online – that the digital revolution has barely lapped the worn walls of Whitehall.

The UK government website, GOV.UK, has been totally redesigned. The previous version was unprofessional and ecletic. Links were piled, squeezed and buried.

The old website was rather messy. (Source: Quartz)

The old website was rather messy. (Source: Quartz)

The new take has been admired, winning the Design of Year 2013 prize from the London Design Museum. Their award stated:

The gov.uk website is perhaps the digital equivalent of those great public projects of the past. It may not look particularly exciting or pretty, but that is not the point. This is design in the raw, providing vital services and information in the simplest, most logical way possible for everything from a renewing a passport to understanding your rights as a disabled person.

The Government Digital Service (GDS), who built GOV.UK, “is leading the digital transformation of government, making public services digital by default, and simpler, clearer and faster to use.” Their design principles are to start with the needs of the user, and not with the needs of government. The minimalist approach creates a quick and viable solution, before iterating again and again, fed by data from “prototyping and testing with real users on the live web”. Given the difficulties some have with website navigation, it is welcome that their sixth principle is for “inclusion”. The GDS wrote in their blog:

We’re designing for the whole country – not just the ones who are used to using the web. In fact, the people who most need our services are often the people who find them hardest to use. If we think about those people at the beginning we should make a better site for everyone.

Beyond the functional website, the internet is rendering some government activities obsolete. This digital disruption has eradicated the motor tax disc, as whether a motorist has paid their vehicle excise duty is now swiftly checked on a database.

With mere months to go before the General Election, how political parties seek to reforge public services utilising the internet is a vital question. However, ensure you are registered to vote first.

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2015 by in National Politics and tagged , .
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