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The Government historically delivers services through departments. The department might deliver the service directly, through agents or agencies, alone or in cooperation with local government. Each solution is a child of its time and circumstances, with little over-arching view of the Government's relationship with the citizen. Thus, I have found that departments which provide services focus predominantly not on the citizen, but on an aspect of the citizen called `the customer'. This allows the department to focus on the delivery of their service -- a transactional relationship.

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Sir David identifies "customer" as a subset of "citizen". Let's run with that, even if we've taken the view at Ideal Gov that they are separate not subsidiary (and that there's more to it than just these two). Varney's breakthrough is to produce government policy that stops using "citizen" and "customer" as interchangeable, which causes all sorts of problems in its e-gov intentions. See for example

Posted by William on 2006-12-30 14:06:07.
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I thought this was a very interesting distinction to make because the term "customer focus" has become a bit of a test of loyalty for those protesting a modernising commitment! I think the re-assertion of the primacy of citizen-hood, over and above any combination of "customer-hoods" is a good one.

As a citizen, I want a series of services to be delivered to me as customer, but I also want to take an holistic view of the role of the state as the thing with which I make a contract, surrendering my freedom in return for the seurity, order etc that it offers.

Posted by Geoff Llewellyn on 2007-01-05 09:51:46.
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I think the "child of its time" point is very interesting, because intitutions are the way in which we crystallise a way of thinking that "made sense at the time" and turn it into something that has a life of its own.

In this context the issue that it prompts for me is that the last great reform of the institutions of UK government was the Haldane Report of 1919 and at various times since then, people have called for a "new Haldane" in response to environmental changes that have challenged the status quo. Haldane agonised over whether the structure of the government machine should be driven by customer need groups ( in modern terms ) as opposed to functional capability and concluded that the former was too complex as an organising principle, and that therefore the latter was the only way through.

I see the emergence of the "Councils" that are sprinkled through the report as a way of overlaying the customer group focus on top of the exisiting functional silos. I think the $64,000 question is whether this matrix arrangement will work or whether the time has come for the customer group dimension to become the prime organising principle, and this would demand a "new Haldane"

Posted by Geoff Llewellyn on 2007-01-05 10:09:17.
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Geoff, the balance implied by of one of your sentences is absolutely intriguing. you say "I also want to take an holistic view of the role of the state as the thing with which I make a contract...".

The evidence to date suggests to me that the administration's primary concern has been to arrange things so that the state has an holistic view of all its information about you (through an over-arching policy of data-sharing), but not to give you, the data subject, a similarly holistic view of your state 'digital footprint'.

The tools which could give you such a view would also, in a rational world, be the tools which allow you - as the service-consumer - to exercise consent and control over the sharing of your data between third parties for the purposes of service provision. (I add that proviso because, of course, there will be data-sharing for enforcement purposes where the user's consent may be superfluous...).

Posted by Robin Wilton on 2008-04-04 12:34:12.
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