Gian R. Grob
Government Crisis Communication
A human-centered approach to digital government communication in the COVID-19 pandemic
All around the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of misunderstandings, confusion and uncertainty among citizens in Switzerland, who have to cope with an overflow of seemingly ever-changing information. This discord can not only be observed in everyday conversations and discussions around the topic but is reflected in the difficulties one faces in the retrieval of information through governmental communication services in the digital realm.
This work is based on the principles of human-centeredness and human-centered design and therefore aims to empathize with the humans, in this case citizens, and address the core needs of those who are experiencing the challenges in government communication. An optimized form of the design thinking approach incorporates this focus and divides the process into six phases: After an initial pre-definition phase, all aspects of the problem area, including citizens’ views, beliefs and needs, were attempted to understand. To synthesize this research phase, a subsequent (re)definition step allowed to form criteria for the following ideation and exploration of concepts, before the best-suited concept was being prototyped and tested in a number of iterations. This refinement led to finalizing the intervention in the last step and to form an implementation plan around it.
A centralized information source that comes in the form of a website and a smartphone application, and is supported by social media channels and other public services. Covid.swiss is a comprehensive and universally accessible communications tool that enables the federal government to communicate clearly and in a concise fashion, drastically reducing room for misinterpretation. The user-friendly interface, combined with smart built-in features, allows to filter information and customize the user’s experience on the service while narrowing the search down to the user’s specific needs.
Government communication is, especially in crisis mode, geared towards an exceptionally vast and diverse target group which often includes all citizens of a given country, potentially even affected stakeholders beyond borders. In this case, with focus on the federal communication in Switzerland, this situation reflected itself in a strong emphasis on inclusiveness and universal accessibility within.
1 – The power of Design Thinking and Human-Centeredness, especially with the inclusion of the user in the process and the iterative testing
2 – The difficulty in creating interventions or solutions for broad target groups and considering all implications of such
3 – The potential of design practices that lies in governments, and the value it is able to create
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