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More love – less bulls**t

09-12-2014 Column

… is the first solid suggestion for the title of the forthcoming eGovernment strategy. Although it is probably not the most appropriate title for a political strategy, I would nevertheless like to venture deeper into this catchphrase.

In the middle of November, I had the pleasure of a visit from 14 of my followers on Twitter, who dropped by for a cup of coffee and a chat about what future developments they would like to see in the digital public sector. Besides being on the receiving end of a couple of heavy reality punches to the gut and noting down lots of good points, I saw how the participants also gained a better sense of how complex a field we are navigating in.

On the one hand, we need to protect personal data – and on the other hand, we know that increased sharing of data can save lives and vulnerable families. On the one hand, we need to ensure transparency and lawful administration – and on the other hand, we need to ensure a stronger willingness to take risks and a better culture of innovation that enables us to create radically better digital solutions. On the one hand, there is a demand for more agility, fewer rules and less political regulation – and on the other hand, digitisation is a highly political issue precisely because it concerns our entire way of running a society.

Digital service should equal good and efficient service
Despite these widely different positions, there was, however, consensus that a forthcoming strategy must include a stronger focus on ensuring that citizens and companies experience better, and preferably more individualised, digital public service. The entire user journey should be integrated as one process and users should be able to find out much of what they need to know in just one visit – with less hassle and less bureaucracy. I suppose there was also agreement that formulating a strategy which will please everyone is not going to be an easy task.

I also noted what appeared to be solid support for one of the main tracks that we are already in the process of laying, namely a forthcoming strategy that offers some good ideas on how we can improve the users’ encounter with “eGovernment Denmark”. This entails a strong need for a more efficient and optimised back-office, such as automated case procedures, eGovernment-ready legislation, and better use of the data we already have. And it places demands on our whole approach to ensuring user-friendliness – and on our ambitions to ensure that people actually experience that digital service equals good and efficient service.

Debate on forthcoming joint public sector eGovernment strategy
At the end of November, 200 engaged participants met in the beautiful surroundings of the Danish Stock Exchange, where they discussed these same high expectations regarding the forthcoming eGovernment strategy. Also here, there was productive and unrestrained debate on a range of issues including user-friendliness, automation and streamlining of case procedures, digital welfare, how digitisation can ease administrative burdens on companies and promote increased growth, and on the biggest challenge of all: how to maintain the high level of IT security across the public sector.

Mandatory digital self-service and communication
Future strategy aside, in this newsletter, you can read about yet another one of the major goals that must be achieved before we can properly begin to talk about digitisation after 2015: namely, the third wave of digital self-service solutions, which is the penultimate wave in the series. On 1st December 2014 “wave 3” of digital services became mandatory and Danish Citizens now have to use digital self-service when applying for pensions, housing benefits, or for a legal separation, just to mention a few examples.

In addition to that, on Saturday 1st November 2014 Denmark converted to Digital Post and you can read all about it: The information campaign, the launch, and a status report on how the first month of mandatory Digital Post has played out. No doubt, we will experience bumps and come across difficulties that we had not foreseen – but we are determined to solve these challenges in collaboration with other public authorities.

In precisely one year, hopefully we will have achieved our planned target that 80 per cent of written communication between the public sector and citizens and businesses takes place online. We will also know what the next grand vision will be towards 2020 - and whether or not it will be based on lots of love and less bulls**t, of course.

Lars Frelle-Petersen