Citizen Space - Using Innovation to Maintain Services Delivery During the Pandemic

Citizen Space is the recommended tool for all NI Government Consultations and surveys. It is safe for use (in terms of GDPR and Cyber Security testing) in NI Government. It has proved to be an invaluable tool to a wide range of departments and public bodies during the Covid-19 restrictions.

When the pandemic hit, we received a number of requests from different departments who did not have an immediate way (or digital way) to continue their business in a remote working environment.

The NICS Consultation Tool allows admin users to create questions and answer components in a self-service style and they can launch a questionnaire, survey, consultation, online application or form either Citizen Space Logo publicly or privately. This Enterprise Shared Service is bought and managed by the Digital Transformation Service (DTS). DTS were able to design a free solution to address the requirements of a number of business areas and in some cases online applications were up and running within as quickly as 24 hours.

Digital Success

The solution has been so successful that some business areas have begun work with local IT companies in order to provide a long term digital solution for all of their working processes. The last year on Citizen Space has provided a really solid pilot for new digital transformation. The addition of new digital services means that customers get the service that they require but one that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Front-line staff can manage multiple applications/forms at one time and management teams now have automatically generated analysis and statistics at their fingertips.

Practical Use

As a result Citizen Space has been turned in to a temporary forms and application builder for a variety of business areas in order to sustain business critical services such as Discretionary Support (DS), Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and requests for Maternity Grant applications. This has seen Citizen Space become critical in the first line response to the pandemic. 

Some of the many other uses have included:

  • Applications for online shopping slots for shielders;
  • Forms to check on GP and pharmacy staff in NI to ascertain if they required additional resources;
  • Applications for HSCNI staff to apply to be on the Covid-19 vaccination teams;
  • Feedback surveys for online and virtual health clinics e.g. pregnancy clinics, eye clinics and diabetes clinics;
  • DVA Taxi and Bus Operators Covid-19 Compensation Schemes;
  • TEO Travel Agents Covid-19 Compensation Scheme;
  • NICS Staff Pulse Surveys to gauge how staff were dealing with the pandemic;
  • Application and registration forms for DFE's Assured Skills Academies programme.

Thankfully the Citizen Space solution was already bought, paid for and managed within DTS for all NICS members of staff prior to the pandemic.

Naturally, there were steps that had to be taken in the background to control the number of forms being added to the system to ensure that there wasn't a data overload on the server. We have been able to maintain control over forms by speaking with new and current users who wish to add forms or applications to the system and issuing regular updates to all users about the usability and sustainability of the system.

Laurence Donaghy from the Department for the Economy gave some comments on their use of Citizen Space in recent months.

The Department for the Economy are leading the development of a new Executive Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland. This Strategy will impact on all of our lives, at home and at work, as energy consumers. The Department utilized Citizen Space to enable people to respond online to a policy options consultation for a new Energy Strategy for NI, to capture the views of domestic and business energy consumers, and the energy sector.

Citizen Space enabled us to build our consultation from the ground up. With help from the very experienced Carolyn McCall, we designed our questions so they would be easier for us to analyse, they flowed logically and were user friendly, using both closed and open questions to provide quantitative and qualitative data for our consultation summary report. The consultation is open until 30th June but we can use the suite of tools available to work through our responses in real time and target groups with low response rates so that we have a more comprehensive and inclusive consultation response.

The Citizen Space team have been excellent in supporting our learning of this digital tool. We have created a team of analysts across our policy areas who can now interrogate the data using many different filters and comparators. This will undoubtedly strengthen our analysis and ensure that the Energy Strategy, when published later this year, has taken account of respondents' views as well as possible.

If you would like any further information on the NICS Consultation Tool, please contact Carolyn McCall at carolyn.mccall@finance-ni.gov.uk 

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