User engagement and Brexit

By: David Blanco
The 23rd of June 2016 is a very very (yes, two very’s) important day for all. No, not the Brexit referendum but Sysdoc’s 30th Anniversary. All Sysdoc’ers will be united during the daylong event discussing the journey our organisation has gone through, our triumphs, our surprises and a look ahead at what the future will bring for us.

One journey that has changed dramatically since the early days of Sysdoc and now 2016 is user engagement, and more exactly user consumption - not Tuberculosis! - but consumption of data, information…

Let’s look at the Brexit (EU) referendum. We can all agree this is one of THE political events of the century so far. The last time there was a vote like this on these shores you’d have to cast your mind back to 1975; and even then we are not talking about the EU, it was the less glamorous European Common Market. That’s 41 years, I wasn’t alive in case you were thinking that! Since then, voting hasn’t changed. The process is pretty much the same, a voter then and a voter now could swap roles and not need any handholding. You only need your poll card, the location of the polling station, the necessary references so that the civil servant there can identify you and the all-important date when you need to show-up to vote.

Considering the importance of this vote (and others), I am surprised that there has not been a change in the voting process. There are so many ways in which the process can be improved, not only to make it more simple and effective but to improve engagement.

We have all received in the last week or so, the collateral shared by the government. That pamphlet/flyer with ‘please vote to remain in the EU’. According to the media, circa £9m of public funding went  to this flyer. Wow!

My shock is not on the amount of money that was spent but that it was spent on a paper solution to communicate to the masses of the UK. Why!? It’s another clear indication of the disconnection that is still present between politicians, the civil service, and Joe Bloggs the white van driver or Geoffrey the cultured technically savvy executive. With £9m we were only able to create a paper document that was very generic and not personalised; whereas today personalisation is key – look at smartphones, users have complete freedom to personalise the device to their specific needs and requirements.

And the very same can be done, leveraging technology, to mass communication.

For example: the 18-30 year old demographic is according to all major think tanks the demographic that is least engaged in politics and the least likely to vote. How do you remedy this? Tailored communication. Clearly a digital solution would have been far more effective and could have an additional nugget, such as being tailored per region.

If we as specialists in human factors, supporting countless change management projects applied the government’s one-fit-all approach… we’d struggle to say the least.

Let’s go back to the polling card. Making the poll card more informative, engaging and (for lack of a better word) “modern” would be the next logical step. Technology already exists to enable the polling card to do more; tailored messaging for the end user/end voter, links to web portals that explain the process, to use colour to highlight key information (when and where).

The voting process hasn’t changed since the last vote on Europe. No surprise that large swathes of the public feel unengaged; I’ll include myself at times. No need to re-invent the wheel; technology exists and it needs to be more effectively used.

When will the process change to fit in with current technology?


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