Digitization has completely changed how we interact 

In light of the pandemic, citizens have reassessed what they need from their public and private sector service providers. Their priorities and drivers have changed, and this offers governments a significant opportunity to redefine social, economic, and environmental citizen experiences. Yet what should policymakers’ key considerations be? We believe helpful inspiration can be found in events taking place across the music industry.

Before the advent of tapes, CDs, or MP3s, there was vinyl; a series of tracks, delivered in an order dictated by the artist. The use of the word ‘experience’ to refer to the ways consumers interacted with these products was unheard of – unless you were a Jimi Hendrix fan – but essentially, vinyl records were sold by record companies as purely aural experiences.

In practice, however, these experiences were much more multifaceted. The albums were artistic and visually expressive, lyrics poetic and full of deeper meaning, songs hotly debated and shared between friends, albums recommended by sage record shop employees, and songs practiced and performed by bandmates.

Digitization omitted a significant number of these more socially focused experiences from the act of owning and enjoying music. Music was suddenly consumed, not owned; as single songs, alone, without art or lyrics, then shared – much more often and widely than before.

This same digitization has utterly transformed the way we access and consume public and private sector services, especially during the last eight months. While certain areas of the economy have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, others have maintained or even increased their levels of business thanks to digitization.

The future is not entirely digital, however. 

Analogue is making a comeback 

Vinyl records went out of fashion, but they were never completely consigned to history, and have recently experienced a strong revival.

This fightback shows consumers are clearly making their purchasing decisions based on other factors other than the ‘aural experience’. They want broader and richer experiences than those provided by digital and streaming formats, and because there is a financial imperative to do so, record companies like Sony are restarting vinyl production almost 30 years after factories shut up shop.

The boom is reflected in the experiences of citizens during the pandemic. While many sectors have been relatively well-suited to purely digital service provision, citizens are calling out for their experiences to be multifaceted.

Citizens have experienced the purely digital experience and realized that society is lacking without the ability to socialize, exercise, choose and thrive, wherever they are. They know these things are crucial to enable positive mental health, but also the health of social structures, the broader economy, and environment. 

Yet, while there was a market opportunity for media companies in re-launching vinyl for music lovers, there is not the same financial upside for many sectors in the economy to provide alternatives to digital service channels. Additionally, moving back to predominantly office-based ways of working is now firmly unpopular amongst employees.

12%

of workers intend on returning to the office full-time, according to 2020 Slack research. 

How can policymakers and government administrations take the lead? How can they implement policies that support and encourage ‘vinyl’ experiences across all public and private services?

Multifaceted social and community-driven services will allow communities to blossom  

There is a basic and undisputable principle of physics that when things get out of balance they fall over and stop working. This applies just as equally to the extent and impact of digitalisation on society, the economy, and citizens as individuals. The adoption of creative policies can act as a counterbalance, providing a new equilibrium for digital and vinyl experiences in the post-pandemic world.

  • Improve the overall citizen experience – Build connected communities which all offer a minimum level of common services to citizens – accessed via physical or digital channels – in cities, urban areas, towns, villages, or further towards the edges of the grid.
  • Help reverse global mega-trends – Such as population migration to urban areas, increased congestion, the deterioration of the natural environment, the dominance of global companies over local enterprise, and the impact of pandemics across different segments of the economy.
  • Future-proof for new social interaction and distancing models – Prioritise and fast-track the additional physical space required: reconfigure real estate, approve outdoor areas for socialising, and develop more rural and urban recreational and entertainment space.
  • Leverage enabling technology – Look at how people can work more efficiently, as opposed to simply digitizing their roles. For example, use telehealth to allow citizens to continue to live and work in areas physically distanced from care centres, all while providing a comparable level of service.
  • Optimise citizen and public servant experience – Have the right mix of Government front offices to serve citizens, consolidate similar services, and create distributed hubs for public servants to work and collaborate from.
  • Enhance the maturity of society and the economy – Use an appropriate balance of indicators, both quantitative – such as GDP and employment rates – and qualitative: citizen wellbeing and environmental regeneration, for instance.

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Society is undergoing a major transformation and the choices made now will decide how well it works for all of us in the near future. Learn the steps you can take to ensure adaptation and help every citizen thrive. 

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