Tutorial 2 - Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen

How to Create an Ecosystem and Framework for Digital Public Sector Service Delivery  

Tutorial Outline

This half-day tutorial, to be delivered in English, provides a practical answer to the question: How do governments ensure a minimum level of usability in public service offers online?1 Two elements are of particular interest here: first, the tutorial focuses on usability guidelines and standards, which have emerged, in the last few years, as a directive tool with the aim of assisting governments in its implementation; second, the tutorial will streamline the governance model conceived to ensure compliance with the usability criteria as outlined in the usability guidelines.[1]–[4].

The primary objective of the tutorial is to introduce the participant to the theory and practice of online usability of public sector websites and online transactional service solutions (eServices). The tutorial will be anchored in the research and recommendations of Jacob Nielsen (1994, 1999, 2003) and Ben Shneiderman (2000, 2010), and the strengths and weaknesses found in four different national approaches to usability guides and compliance models for improved user-centric and value-adding public sector service delivery online. The secondary objective is to provide a synthesis of the strengths and weaknesses identified in a set of policy recommendations for increased usability and value-added of public sector online service offers.

To achieve these two objectives, the tutorial uses a combination of theory and practice. Discussions and group work will be based on a guided pedagogical approach to get participants to work with specific pre-defined questions and scenarios, and to apply these to their own national and organisational contexts. Mapped against Nielsen and Shneiderman, the tutorial will present the national approach of Denmark [10], [11], Portugal [12], [13], the United Kingdom (UK) [14]–[16], and the United States of America (USA) [17], [18]. The aim of the cross-country comparison is to provide insights into current trends and standards for user-friendly government portals, websites, and online services, and identify any useful trends in the four approaches to design principles and requirements. The ability, if any, to minimize administrative burdens faced while improving the user-friendliness of public sector eService will be explored. The tutorial will subsequently compare the four national approaches and capacities to ensure public sector compliance with the requirements and ability to keep up with end-user expectations to usability. The tutorial is structured as follows:

14:00 – 15:30 Part I

  • Welcome. A short outline of the tutorial programme and objective, plus a roundtable of participants.
  • Digital transformation of public sector service delivery

Introduction to key concepts, and current digital trends and dilemmas in public sector online service delivery.

  • Online usability. Outline key definition of public sector service, service delivery channels, and online usability, plus key recommendations by Jacob Nielsen and Ben Sheiderman.
  • National approaches to online usability and governance compliance.  Outline the service production and delivery ecosystems in Denmark, Portugal, the UK, and the US. Discuss frameworks and governance models to ensure compliance with usability requirements, facilitate the use of online service offers.

15:30- 16:00 Coffee break 

16:00-17:30 Part II

  • Continued: National approaches to online usability and governance compliance 
  • Group work and presentations. Participants are divided into groups to discuss Nielsen, Shneiderman, and the national experiences. The core question is for each group to apply the experiences and recommendations to their organizations regarding the national context and identify existing and missing elements in their service delivery ecosystems, compliance frameworks, and governance models. The groups present their findings and discussion in plenum.
  • Conclusion. A set of potential tools and policy recommendations are outlined based on the tutorial, discussions, and group presentations on how an organisation/country can establish a service delivery ecosystem consisting of a set of usability requirements websites and eServices, a channel strategy, plus a framework and governance model to ensure compliance with the requirements.

Target Audience

No prior knowledge of online usability or technology is required. Participants should have a basic knowledge of public administration (any level) and public sector service production and delivery. Public and private sector participants will find the tutorial particularly useful. Academic researchers and civil society stakeholders with an interest in usability and online services will also find the tutorial’s combination of theory and practice of interest.

Importance of this Topic for the ICEDEG Community

Governments the world over grapple with the optimization of IT and technology use in public sector service production and delivery. This is particularly relevant in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) and the ICEDEG community context. Research by the Inter- American Development Bank [19], [20] shows that digital transactions are, on average, 74\% faster than physical service delivery in the LAC countries, but only 42\% of people with university studies report having completed a government transaction in 2017, dropping to 16\% for people without formal studies. Only in Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay more than half of government transactions services are available online. The drastically reduced availability of online service offers contributes to the fact that only 7\% of people have reported doing their last transaction online in the LAC [19], [20]. By comparison, 81\% of the transactions are available online in the European Union (EU), with over 80\% of the volume being online for 70+ high-frequency and high-volume services in a global leader like Denmark [21], [22].

Research also shows that completing a government transaction in the region takes an average of 5.4 hours, and up to 11 hours in some countries [19], [20]. Delivering in- person transactions is estimated to cost up to 40 times more than delivering the exact same transaction online – compared to 2-3.5 times cheaper in a Northern European context [21], [23]. Therefore, the potential of technology- enabled administrative burden reduction and user-friendly online service delivery in the LAC seems to be a largely untapped potential for government efficiency and productivity gains.

Prior Tutorials from the Instructor

The tutor will be Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen. He is a fellow at the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance in Portugal (https://egov.unu.edu) and a researcher at the Tallinn University of Technology, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance in Estonia (www.ttu.ee/nurkse).

He currently works on digital transformation and e-Government strategy development and evaluation (Armenia, Albania, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Latvia), institutional frameworks and performance management (Armenia, Albania, Faroe Islands, Latvia). Other work areas include data reuse, eID management and PKI infrastructure and personalization of eServices (Armenia, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Latvia), ICT-facilitated administrative burden reduction, public service delivery, online usability and personalization, public service delivery ecosystems and one- stop-portal design and usability tests.

Morten regularly conducts executive and university course trainings on e-Government, online service delivery, usability, disruptive technologies, innovation, smart nations, cities and communities, and social media related issues (e.g. www.msm.nl, www.ttu.ee, www.eipa.eu, www.wnpid.amu.edu.pl/en/).


The tutorial is a result of the project “SmartEGOV: Harnessing EGOV for Smart Governance (Foundations, methods, Tools)/NORTE-01- 0145-FEDER-000037”, supported by Norte Portugal Regional Operational Programme (NORTE 2020), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (EFDR). It was also supported in part by funding from Tallinn University of Technology, Project B42; OGI - Open Government Intelligence project in the EU Horizon 2020 framework program, grant agreement 693849.


  1. UNDESA, “E-Government Survey 2008: From e-government to connected government,” United Nations, New York, 2008.
  2. UNDES, “E-Government Survey 2012: E-Government for the people,” United Nations, New York, 2012.
  3. EC, “Public Services Online ‘Digital by Default or by De-tour?’ Assessing User Centric eGovernment performance in Euorpe - eGovernment Benchmark 2012,” European Commission, Brussels, 2012.
  4. T. Obi, “WASEDA - IAC International e-Government Index.” Waseda University, Tokyo, 2016.
  5. J. Nielsen, Usability engineering. Elsevier, 1994.
  6. J. Nielsen, “Usability 101: Introduction to usability.” 2003.
  7. J. Nielsen, Designing web usability: The practice of simplicity. New Riders Publishing, 1999.
  8. B. Shneiderman, “Universal usability,” Commun. ACM, vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 84–91, 2000.
  9. B. Shneiderman, Designing the user interface: strategies for effective human-computer interaction. Pearson Education India, 2010.
  10. DIGST, “God selvbetjening. ”Digitaliserin gsstyrelsen, Copenhagen, 2017.
  11. DIGST,“Udviklingsv ejledning for god selvbetjening: Kravbanken.” Digitaliseringsstyrelsen, Copenhagen, 2017.
  12. AMA,“Usabilidade.gov.pt,” vol.2017. AMA-Agência para a Modernização Administrativa, Lisbon, 2017.
  13. AMA,“Guia de usabilidade: Lista de verificação,” vol.2017. AMA Agência para a Modernização Administrativa, Lisbon, 2017.
  14. GDS,“Digital Service Standard - Service Manual,” vol. 2017. GDS-Government Digital Service, London, 2017.
  15. GDS,“gov.uk,” gov.uk, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://gov.uk. [Accessed: 01-Feb-2018].
  16. GDS,“Performance gov.uk,” Performance platform, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/performance. [Accessed: 08-Feb-2018].
  17. 18F, “usa.gov,” 2017. [Online]. Available: www.usa.gov. [Accessed:13-Jun-2018].
  18. 18F, “U.S. Web Design Standards,” 2017. [Online]. Available: https://designsystem.digital.gov. [Accessed: 13-Jun-2018].
  19. P. Farias, S. Goldsmith, M. Flumian, G. Mendoza, J. Wiseman,  and G. Zanabria, “Governments that Serve: Innovations that Improve Service Delivery to Citizens,” Washington D.C., 2017. 
  20. B. Roseth, A. Reyes, and C. Santiso, “Wait No More: Citizens, RedTape, and Digital Government,” Washington D.C., 2017.
  21. M. Meyerhoff Nielsen, “eGovernance and cooperation models for online service supply and citizen use: A comparative analysis of Denmark and Japan,” JeDEM - J. eDemocracy Open Gov. CeDEM Issue Best Pap. from CeDEM Asia 16 CeDEM17 Conf., vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 68–107, 2017.
  22. DIGST, “Det digitale score card,” vol. 2016. Digitaliseringsstyrelsen, Copenhagen, 2017.
  23. DIGST, “The digital path to future welfare: Joint national eGovernment strategy 2011-2015.” Digitaliseringsstyrelsen, Copenhagen, 2011.

Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen is Academic Fellow at UNU-EGOV. He is also a Researcher at the Tallinn University of Technology, Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance, Estonia. He is also a former head of section at the Danish Agency for Digitisation, where he was responsible for the national citizen portal (www.borger.dk), including project development and management, daily management and coordination of external stakeholders, redevelopment of borger.dk graphical identity and information architecture, establishing measurable minimum criteria for user-friendliness in Danish eServices, and international knowledge transfer into the unit. His areas of expertise include project management and coordination, presentation skills, evaluation of ICT projects and online services, analysis and comparative e-Government, performance management, key performance indicators and tools, citizen portal functionality and structure/architecture, user-friendly and personalized service provision online, e-Voting, e-Inclusion / e-Participation and participatory design, Web2.0 / social media use in public administrations, ICT and interoperability, knowledge transfer and exchange, good practice identification and analysis, development and implementation of tender proposals, seminar and conference organization, technical assistance and knowledge transfer to SME’s in developing countries, democratization, and international trade and foreign direct investments issues. He holds a Master in Arts in International Economic Management from the University of Birmingham (UK, 2000) and a BA and BA Honors in Political Science and Economics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa, 1997 and 1998).

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