Design for Public Service Platform

Choi Min-young, Sungshin Women's University

1. Digital platform of public service

Public service based on digital platform is emerging as the most important factor in the competitiveness of a nation and a city. In 2020, Korea ranked 8th in the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking announced by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland, which was a 2-step rise from 10th position in 2019, to show its potential in the digital field. Also, in the government index announced by OECD, Korea is exhibiting strength and performance in digital-based public service by achieving 1st place in digital by design government, 2nd place in government as a platform, 3rd place in data-driven government, 1st place in open by default government, 4th place in user driven government and 12th place in proactiveness of government. Seoul is also making efforts to drive innovation in public service based on excellent digital infrastructure, and moreover, there is a demand to resolve problems in a way that can be felt by our citizens and achieve transformation in terms of creating sustainable and real values. 

There are various definitions on platform. In the dictionary, platform is defined as 'platform originally refers to the boarding place for passengers of trains or subways, but today, it can be referred to as a sort of a 'foundation' that enables  a certain type of service as a base module that is commonly and repeatedly used to provide various types of systems or services. It can be of all forms such as product, service, asset, technology and knowhow.’ Platform would refer to a platform in a train station or a stage, but in the industry, it would refer to the base framework, dimension and standard. It would be referring to the basic frame in which key equipment is equipped for automobiles, and the operating system (OS) that acts as the foundation of a system for computers. Recently, it is often used to mean an ecosystem that encompasses service, contents and devices in the IT industry, but specific use varies. If we were to observe this from a user perspective, it can be summarized as a platform where many people gather to get on and off a vehicle, a venue that gathers products, services, asset, technology and knowhow, and moreover, as a new ecosystem, business and playground. The platform is ultimately acting as an intermediary and a catalyst. In particular, 「Government as Platform」 published by Tim O'Reilly in 2010 claims that the government should be presented as a platform to have individuals, institutions and companies be operated on top of it. The government should be the provider of service that vitalizes the market manager or user community. The author criticizes that the current public service model is limited to the vending machine-like service and department store-like service that simply lists the needs and requests of citizens, and emphasizes that public service as a platform should play the role of promoting the vitalization and participation of citizens in the community. In this perspective, user-centric public space as a platform can be summarized into the following five statements. 

1. It is a playground where citizens get together and play. 

2. Service providers and users are all customers.

3. It is a bilateral market for connection and trade, and it is a business venue that centers on trust.

4. It is a catalyst that drives network impact and competition.

5. It is where harmonious rules, engagement, distribution, cooperation, compensation and change are observed.

2. Digital platform technology and design paradigm


The wave of informatization and advancement in technology that emerged after the second world war is accelerating. User-centric design and UX/UI are also changing in line with technological advancement, and since 2010, there has been a large paradigm shift that centers on resilience to prepare against post Covid-19, service design, human-centric design and data design. Ultimately, the meaning of technology is being expressed as the creation of new experiential value for people. There is significance in that digitization and intelligence is being accelerated across all technology-related industries and throughout our daily lives rather than an emphasis of the influential power of a single technology or single field, and hence, there will be a considerable change applied to not only companies but also to the government and general civil society. In particular, there is a demand for  creative capabilities to enhance the experiential value of service and leading technological capability to secure new innovative opportunities so that preparations can be made against such changes. Infrastructure such as cloud and security technology would have to be established to be able to secure quality data and connecting technology (communication) from technical perspective. On the other hand, from the user perspective, in addition to Digitalization, that is, application of holistic digital transformation technology, the smart experience that will consequently be provided to people is the most critical. 

Technological transformation is predicting the following 6 changes in terms of digital platform.

1. Conversion of a company into a strong platform and implementation of Digital Transformation

2. Acceleration of digital and cloud conversion by the government

3. Seek conversion of supply chain customer-centered value creation driver such as manufacturing, retail and distribution companies

4. Change in work experience and new work space such as remote work (non Face-to-face class)

5. Requirements: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

6. Adoption of AI and machine learning, collection/structuring of advanced data, cloud-based data technology

If we were to consider this from the perspective of public service, multi-channel approach that considers Total eXperience in both physical and digital world will become more important to provide satisfactory experience to citizens through technological advancement, to expand experiential values on [space] and [connection] centering on [people] and to raise new experiential values for citizens. In other words, design approach that raises the experiential values for citizens is the most important. In terms of personalization and connection of people, method of communication and community that includes families would have to be diversified, and in terms of space, existing space that includes the metaverse would have to be expanded, consequently designing a platform for sharing and cooperation.  

3. Benchmarking for platform design of public service

Another question that has to be addressed to achieve innovation in digital platform for public service is ‘What should we benchmark to catch up?' In particular, since Seoul is already leading in terms of city infrastructure, we need to look into practical custom service from micro perspective that centers more on citizens to discover motivation for innovation and new ideas. Smart cities such as Singapore, Helsinki and Copenhagen are representative cases that portray innovation of digital public services from micro perspective. Singapore ranked first in 2020 Smart City Index, and is presenting a new picture of public service innovation and design governance led by the government with an organization that is established directly under the prime minister. It aims to support policy to develop solution that improves the quality of life for citizens using digital technology in healthcare, medicine, living environment, transportation and digital government services. The main motto of Singapore is citizen participation lab and experiential service based on the aspiration for 'life for all citizens who feel a sense of meaningful achievement’. SGD 19 billion was invested until 2020 to pursue a project to develop public service and construct a platform to promote digitization in overall operation of the nation. In addition, it is focusing on improving usage and collection of urban data and elaborating on and implementing an actual service design through the enhancement of technology that is in the pilot application stage, and it also enacted policies to support development of solution design that centers on the 5 main core areas to improve the lives of citizens through the use of digital technology and design. It could be considered to be similar to Korea in terms of nation-led operation. However, combining new digital information with technology used in everyday lives and the design solution and laboratory that drives cooperation and participation of citizens to allow direct implementation of design can be deemed important benchmarking factors. 

Copenhagen and Helsinki also have governance characteristics of citizen-led service innovation. These cities are experimentally driving service innovation by operating innovative citizen clubs and living lab that promotes participation and encourages citizens to raise their voices while also driving technical exchange that centers on data platform to exchange information based on human-centric design. Characteristics can be found in services and policy aims, and one of the characteristics is the private-led distributive governance through non-profit organization and social innovation led by design and citizens. The catch phrase of Helsinki clearly shows such differentiation points. ‘Returning one hour every day to citizens’ has great implications as a specific target of public service that can be felt and empathized by the citizens. Furthermore, data center that collects the information of citizens and 'Innovator Club' that citizens participate in are fundamentally operated from the start of the service to provide an opportunity to connect services of venture companies and small and medium-sized enterprises with the city infrastructure, and 40% of general citizens are directly and indirectly participating and intervening from enactment to execution, operation and retaining of policies. Copenhagen is also executing various support policies that enable the convergence of technology and ideas of citizens, mind lab of public innovation institutions, various experiments in which citizens participate in or living lab, and these are all key factors that should be benchmarked. Participation of citizens and users will have to be a prerequisite to design a digital platform for innovative public service, and the role of a lab that secures data-based infrastructure and designs and sets solutions is critical.  

4. Public service platform design involving participation and cooperation

We know that participation and cooperation of service user is the most important in digital platform design of public service, but ultimately, it is very difficult to find and implement a specific method to drive such user-centric participation and cooperation. Service design approach that encompasses participation-compensation-cooperation, instead of a technological approach of platform is significant in enabling cooperation and participation that center on users as a platform. Various smart city projects that are being carried out in Amsterdam allows direct participation of private companies and 6,000 citizens. Even in France, such a concept of platform does not simply remain in the digital area, but is considered a venue for discussion, where citizens and experts exchange opinions. Bordeaux Métropole en 2050 is imagining a future city by specifying the near future through internet platform, and is carrying out widespread brainstorming to gather various ideas on various topics while allowing citizens, designers and experts to exchange opinions. Policy on Bordeaux city plan is established while considering various key topics such as What will be the residential mode in 2050? Means of transportation? Way of working? Medical issues? Education? Food culture? It will be more important than anything else to open up a venue for discussion within the platform to enable discussions to be carried out on various issues and to exchange opinions while identifying new businesses and ideas at the same time. 

Construction of design governance that engages citizens, designers and experts and vitalization of community design is more important than anything else to establish a public service platform that drives cooperation and participation in Seoul Metropolitan City. In particular design governance operation project consists of policy identification-planning-participation-development-evaluation system that involves engagement of citizens, and it can be considered an excellent model that portrays approaches taken in terms of design to resolve various social issues. However, we need to systemize such a project into a platform that connects the city-citizens-public institutions-private companies, and strengthens to become a design lab that involves the engagement of cities that carry out various design attempts and experiments. At the same time, it is important to create a design community in Seoul where service design and design thinking methodologies are used to apply phased approach that encompasses empathy-planning-definition-idea development-execution and encourages citizens to propose various issues along with cooperation of various groups of people such as citizens, experts, the city and public officials. Furthermore, we need to plan the overall journey that includes the participation and cooperation of each stakeholder to design the digital platform for public service. 

Custom design service, being operated by Seoul Metropolitan City, that is closely linked to the everyday lives of citizens, is a project that requires enhancement and innovation. The operation of a design project that discovers and resolves complex social issues such as crime prevention, welfare, stress, health and disasters based on the lifestyle of citizens will become contents to realize performance and specific operation model of platform design for public service. From a thematic perspective, we need a design approach that can identify future issues and stretch out imaginations instead of ending up as a one-off resolution of issues, and we also need to strengthen continuous support system that advances the deliverables into a business and urban policy of Seoul. Public service platform can be constructed on top of such a foundation, and it will enable innovation of services in Seoul for citizens. Public service platform design that is based on the construction of design governance and design that resolves social issues will act as a foundation to construct a sustainable design ecosystem of Seoul, and furthermore, it will become the means to realize strengthening of the competitiveness for future cities led by design. 

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