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Management of public demand key to building a service-oriented government

CHEN SHUISHENG | 2017-02-20 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Beijing began a public bike rental system in 2012 to provide a healthy, green and low-carbon service. Residents can use the bikes free for the first hour, and pay 1 yuan for every hour afterward. The maximum expense for a day’s use is 10 yuan. Connecting public demand and supply of public services should be the focus for the construction of a service-oriented government.

In recent years, China has made progress in the construction of a service-oriented government. However, problems still remain. Progress still falls short of the expectations and requirements of the public. Increasing and diversified public demand outstrips limited public resources.

The government’s decision-making pattern and service supply model have become divorced from the actual needs of the public. To deal with these problems, it is necessary to actualize the important role of demand management in building a service-oriented government.


Demand management
Scholars from other countries have studied demand management in the service industry. They focus on enhancing service output and the efficiency of service delivery. Demand management in the area can help service suppliers provide more convenience to consumers. In addition, some scholars have studied demand management in medical and health services, researching the optimal way to manage demand in order to lay the foundation for the establishment of an efficient and fair health care system.

Demand for public services is the sum total of general and universal demand of the public. It is also the aggregation of various demand preferences in one area. It is the basis on which the government should make decisions and provide supply. In turn, satisfaction of the public is an important indicator of the success of a service-oriented government.

Demand management deals with in what context demand for public services emerges, and how to manage and meet different demand. This requires investigating and analyzing the universal demand of the public before translating demand into specific services. The process is critical in connecting demand and supply of public services. It should be the focus for the construction of a service-oriented government.

In China, the explosive growth in public service demand as well as the disjointed supply in recent years has held back the construction of a service-oriented government. With economic and social development as well as the improvement in the supply of public services, the demand for public services is taking on new characteristics.

The people demand not only quantity but also quality. The supply of public services should meet the diversified demands of the public and their demand for high quality.

In addition, needs are increasingly personalized. Different socioeconomic groups are distinct from one another in terms of public service demand. The high-income group, the middle-income group and the vulnerable group have different requirements in terms of housing, education, health care and employment. And the phenomenon of diversification is increasingly evident in China.

Furthermore, the public’s preferences change over time. With rapid economic and social development, public demand for security and leisure has started to take precedence over basic necessities. Generally speaking, public demand has shifted from low level to high level, from quantity to quality, and from homogeneity to diversification, posing higher requirements and greater challenges for the construction of a service-oriented government.

In response to the changes in demand, the government should strengthen effective management of public demand. At present, the biggest problem is the lack of government attention and scientific ideas of demand management. This leads to discrepancy between supply of services and public demand.

For one, the supply is not sufficient to meet the increasing demand for public services. Furthermore, the government provides many services that the public does not need, while it is unable or unwilling to provide what the public urgently needs.

Moreover, the lack of an integrated system for the management of demand information and decision-making as well as the production and supply of services fails to coordinate the roles of the demand side, decision-makers and the supply side.

Therefore, it is essential to conduct a systematic survey of demand preferences in order to construct an expression mechanism of public demand. Integrating all kinds of demand information and carrying out projects on this basis will serve the goal of satisfying the actual needs of the public.


Complete system
To guarantee the effective supply of public services, the government should strengthen supply-side improvement and demand management. For a long time, the construction of a service-oriented government has paid attention to supply-side structural reform, quality enhancement and public service capabilities. However, management of the recipients of public services and their demand has been neglected.

Demand management in the field of public services has several implications. First, officials who will be in charge of demand management should take initiative to gather demand information about target groups as the basis for decision-making and supply. Second, target groups can deliver their demand preferences to the center for demand information through various channels and approaches.

Third, those who are in charge of demand management should analyze and integrate the information obtained through their collection and demand expression. Then, they should report in time to decision-makers and suppliers of public services for guidance. Fourth, systematic planning and elaborate management are required to coordinate these processes. In this way, information relating to demand will be transformed into a precise and effective supply of public services, increasing the public’s satisfaction.

Thus, to establish a complete system for demand management of public services, it is vital to construct a comprehensive investigation system, a unified information integration mechanism, an open information transmission channel and an effective production mode. Such a management system will promote the balanced development of demand and supply, pushing the construction of a service-oriented government to a higher level.

A service-oriented government should respect the interests of the public and respond effectively to their demand for services. It should prioritize public demand instead of its own preferences. Translating information into feasible service projects is something inherent in the concept of a service-oriented government. In addition, the government should construct a system for public participation and a mechanism for expressing demand.

Demand management of public services serves as a bond connecting decision-makers, service recipients and suppliers. Matched demand and supply will maximize the utility of public service resources and meet the actual needs of target groups.

Therefore, the government should improve the demand management system, connecting top-down information investigation with demand expression from the bottom up, and connecting the demand management with the decision-making mechanism.

Gradually, the service supply model led by the government and driven by the supply side will be shifted to a model driven by demand. And this will contribute to the transformation of passive, fragmented and extensive service into active, integrated and targeted public services.


Chen Shuisheng is from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University