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Digitisation presents opportunities and makes demands on us all

12-02-2014 Column

A few stories in the newspapers do not change the big picture, which is that digital communication with public authorities is making good progress and makes good sense to citizens and to the economy. Still, much work remains to be done to make it easier for citizens to use the digital opportunities.

By the end of 2015, as much as 80 per cent of written communication with public authorities will take place digitally. This transition to digital communication is a  major project of change that puts new demands on all of us. 

When I read stories in the papers about people who feel left behind by the digital development, I often ask myself if there are things we could have done slightly better. Fortunately, the criticism is not representative of the full picture. A total of 75 percent of Danes are now aware of the plans for digital communication with public authorities, and the Danes are making good progress in terms of communicating digitally. Today, as many as 73 percent use the digital solution when reporting a change of address to public authorities. 

Very many citizens who find it hard to work with IT, e.g. among the elderly, have also risen to the challenge. I hear from organisations that offer IT assistance that there is a huge interest in learning more about the use of IT. The DaneAge Association (Ældre Sagen) for example has seen a twofold increase in the number of participants in their accessible data rooms, and at Udbetaling Danmark a total of 77 per cent of applications for the state pension were submitted digitally in the fourth quarter of 2013. 

The municipalities are also very good at helping those who find digitisation a challenge. We have just completed a survey of the practice at a number of citizen service centres, which shows that the municipalities have placed much focus on assisting citizens. Read more about the survey in the newsletter. 

User-friendliness is the chink in our armour

In spite of successful progress, I must admit that user-friendliness in the public self-service solutions is a chink in our armour and we should all give attention and high priority to solving this. As a concrete step, representatives of central, regional and local government last year published a binding “development guide” containing requirements and recommendations on how the solutions are to be developed in order to ensure user-friendliness and accessibility. At the Danish Agency for Digitisation we, too, are determined to make every effort necessary to ensure that our flagship, the citizen portal, becomes more user-friendly. You will find more about that in the February Newsletter. 

Lars Frelle-Petersen