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What are your plans after 2015?

01-04-2013 Column

This is a question that we encounter increasingly often – as a rule at the same time as people ask us how we are going to achieve the targets we have already set for ourselves.

The digitisation strategy shows the way ahead from 2011 and up to 2015. The recently adopted government growth plan has set the overall targets for the modernisation of the public sector towards 2020. It is therefore natural that the surrounding world should begin to ask what will follow after the implementation of digital mailbox, self-service, and NemID (“EasyID” – the Danish public sector common digital signature solution) based on mobile platforms – even though those of us who are working on this on a daily basis are of the opinion that much remains to be done before we have reached our targets.

Every six months, the Danish Agency for Digitisation draws up a progress report on the joint public digitisation strategy. The strategy covers the period from 2011 to 2015, which means that we are almost halfway. In most areas we are moving in the right direction, overcoming minor obstacles that are a natural part of ICT projects. In other areas, for example with regard to digital mailbox addressed to companies we have great challenges where we must assume broad responsibility on behalf of public authorities that are to send their letters digitally. In the same way as companies must shoulder their responsibility i.e. ensure that NemID is in place and join the mailbox scheme. A typical change-related task where communication and cooperation are crucial.

We shall harvest before we can sow

One of the most important management tasks of the Danish Agency for Digitisation in the years ahead will be to maintain focus, fight the necessary battles, and implement the 69 initiatives of the digitisation strategy. We need to successfully reach our ambitious targets in 2015 to ensure that we have a sound basis to proceed with new ideas and strategic actions.

With a successful launch of the first wave of mandatory self-service, we took a big step in the right direction. However, this year alone another 30 service areas will be introduced which the Danes must take on board. It means that nobody in the public sector who is involved in digitisation and citizen service can rest on their laurels even though we are making progress. We will need to work even more on user friendliness, intelligent application of data, communication, etc. 

The debate about welfare in the future 

Digital welfare is no doubt one of the most important responses to the challenges we will see after 2015. Therefore, the work in progress right now on the preparation of the first strategy for digital welfare in the health, social and educational areas is crucial to digitisation in the future. However, even more change is needed, change implying that ICT becomes a natural part of public service and everyday life, and becomes the first choice and not the alternative to the physical world. We must, for example, become much better at sharing data, we must think less in terms of geographical distances and legislation, and procedures must be incorporated digitally from the outset.

At the Danish Agency for Digitisation, the focus is on implementing the strategy and ensuring the promised economic benefits and better digital service in the Danes’ day-to-day lives. We are, however, already considering the next steps.  In the years ahead, our politicians must take the important discussions on what is needed to shape the citizen service of the future – when we reach the years 2020 and 2050 – and when some of us have become grey-haired. The important debate about digital welfare is taking place right now.
Lars Frelle-Petersen