Can gamification in public sector bridge the quality divide between public and private sectors?

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The Information Technology and Services industry has been a sort of revolution in service delivery whether it comes to private sector or public sector. However, it is also quite apparent that there is significant experiential difference when it comes to public services delivered electronically vis-à-vis those in private sector.


Though the new public management paradigm is beginning to emulate private sector in following ways:

  1. Dis-aggregating public sector functions in flatter hierarchies
  2. Inducing competition among potential private sector players.
  3. Performance incentives for employees

Most of the project implementations have still failed. The reasons that have often been cited for the failure are:

  • Lack of simplicity in government procedures. 
  • Lack of consensus in due collective action
  • Change management is difficult. The common logic is that human being are less likely to learn new processes unless it carries large pay -offs.

“Gamification is essentially one type of nudge: an initiative informed by psychology that changes the context in which people make decisions in order to influence their behavior. ”  – Stephen Goldsmith, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Customer Service Principles

Use of ICT in public sector has capability to improve the service delivery paradigm. This is done by taking away the complexity. 



Service Providers participate in knowledge sessions, and in comprehending government processes come up with innovative ways to simplify processes precisely through feedback and participation. At many places the participation extends to both customers of department and employees of department. The degree of customization that can be facilitated in ICT delivery is incomparable to non-ICT ways for the sheer difficulty in pushing the change.  The customization coupled with factors – tailored to the experience of customer can drastically reduce cognitive cost to user on-boarding.


The second factor is service recovery. The failure in services are taken seriously by private enterprises. Service recovery mechanisms are built by prompt response to failure, and building knowledge banks through FAQs and other mediums.


The third factor is pleasing experience. Apparently, investing in identifying customer preference leads to greater positive feedbacks.

However quite often, the lack of needed funds and manpower leads to failure in implementation of the above 3 customer experiences.

The technology enabled innovations always have to be backed by a simplified process. If not so, it is likely to boomerang.  With unreliable processes, it is not recommended to implement self-servicing technologies. 


The process innovations coupled with technology innovations may greatly amplify user experience, and can fall into any combination of the following buckets:

  • Easy to use
  • Avoided personnel
  • Saved time of user
  • Free of any time and geographical restriction
  • Saved expenses of user
ICT implementation in Public Sector

The trio of Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity is hard to achieve. While government & public sector focus on effectiveness and equity at the cost of efficiency; private sector focus on efficiency and effectiveness at the cost of equity. The equity attribute of government service delivery prevents extensive use of self-service delivery as know how of such services are limited to educated and wealthier.


Other common reasons for poor implementation are clearly the scarcity of resources and lack of feedback. For example, there is no competition to government service leading to insufficient impetus to benchmark service delivery. Government & public sector employees are often not incentivised for improving performance or proposing effective solutions. Not all public services get feedback at equal rate to improvise and improve; for example, while electricity payment is regular, passport renewals are rare.


Private Sector ICT implementation

The private sector in comparison has evolved significantly in terms of customer experience. This may be attributed to the many reason of priorities for customer base expansion and retention. To this end, private enterprises have developed tools for engaging customers on multiple channels. Also, the cycle between service provision and service feedback plays quite a role in improving the overall experience. The shorter the cycle, the greater the feedback on improving the customer experience.


The public enterprises where services are heterogenous in the sense that some are frequent, and some are rare, it is harder to come up with a universal strategy for investing in ICT.

Feedback Matters

Clearly, feedback plays a very critical part in improving the services, and identifying drawbacks in service delivery. With ICT, cost in terms of time and effort for acquisition of feedback data has come down. However, it still is dependent on customer willingness and sector of operations.

  • One strategy to acquire feedback is by improving upon the responsiveness on receiving feedback.
  • The other strategy can be evoking interest in users through Gamification.
Gamification in public services

While it is a known fact that people struggle to complete even 50% of the online courses, people lose their sleep over competing, collecting points and completing game stages. Can we design our public services in a way that they are engaging, people love to discuss about it, form communities around it and generate sufficient feedback for the better of public service delivery?



What are the elements that may help in gamification of service?

1. Aesthetics: A good aesthetics at all interfaces of customer interaction creates a positive experience. The interfaces can be many channels of service delivery and customer interaction.

2. Small timely benefit to user in exchange of their performance: Let us take income tax filing as an example, people who are routine filers, file correct without delay may be given some rewards which may or may not be financial in nature.

3. Social Motivation: By introducing categories of appreciation; and publishing it on leader board of the department. An example is World Bank Procurement training on iNet portal. People who attain 100% or near 100% in certificate exams are publicised as leader on portal.

4. Milestone achievements or badges: Users may be given appreciation on reaching a milestone achievement. Aviation companies are making loyal customers through their frequent flier programs.

5. Clear goals in the story: It is important for customers to know why they should exert themselves. Helping citizens know what is in store on achieving the said goal, helps citizens to pursue.


Generation of feedback is just one part of gamification. It can be used to improve the effort both on public service side and citizen drive particularly by providing tools of social recognition.


Further Readings

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