I often hear about the relationship between Governments and technology from the press as well as from bloggers such as our own Jonathan Schwartz (CEO & President), and it does seem sensible for the public sector to leverage the advantages that technology can bring. Benefits such as expediting and lowering the cost of transacting business through the use of technology, saves valuable tax payers money and should lead to a 'better' service.
In the United Kingdom we have seen an increase in exposure to technology when interacting with the Government, for example, buying vehicle road tax online, computerised vehicle testing, online booking of doctor appointments and prescription services, online petitions, underground (tube/metro) payment card and much more.
While it can help, technology can be seen as more of a hindrance than a solution for users. At least two examples made my blood-pressure rise recently, for brevity let me mention just one.
Congestion charging has been implemented in the UK's capital, London,
since 2003. And has been watched around the world as a reference
A payment of £8
is required for each day a chargeable vehicle enters or travels within
the zone between 7am and 6pm; a fine of between £60 and £180 is imposed
BUT...as I found out yesterday, there is a 48 hour delay in processing the number plate recognition, and the non-payment penalty is issued before that time!
This means that the driver is made responsible to recognise when a payment is required, and the system will not be able to tell you if you crossed the 'border' until the penalty is issued. Of course the recommendation is to keep alert for the signs, check the "Speaking clock" on your mobile phone, and make sure you pay-up if you think you may have entered the zone, but don't expect a refund at a later date if you didn't - there is an administration charge greater than the £8 to do so!
If Boris Johnson (The London Mayor) would like to solve that through some cheap/eco solutions, feel free to get in contact. Even a FAQ entry would be honest and help with customer care, but I guess that delay in processing assists with the main objectives of this system- to reduce congestion, and to raise funds for investment in London's transport system.
The lesson to take away is to value users experience with your technology, whether it's responsiveness, user control, system feedback or whatever, it takes just one bad interaction, to leave a lasting impression, and it could potentially be solved rather quickly and cheaply.
Let me throw out a question - do you have an appropriate feedback mechanism in place?