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Everyday life devoted to digitisation – and a citizen-targeted campaign coming up

30-10-2013 Column

Implementing an ambitious strategy like the Danish e-government strategy is not without hurdles. Recently, there have been challenges regarding Danish digital signature - NemID - and much focus on the difficulties many companies have experienced when creating their digital letter box “Digital Post” in spite of the fact that we were very close to the deadline. At the same time, we are also approaching another important milestone on 1 December 2013 when the second wave of digital self-service for citizens is realised. In preparation for this, the Danish Agency for Digitisation will launch a large-scale common public sector campaign at the end of November.

Making all companies in Denmark capable of receiving digital mail from public authorities is a huge and difficult transformation. However, taking into account that public authorities may save around DKK 400 million a year, and that it will make everyday life easier for businesses, it is indeed a change that is important and right. And it is a change we must learn from when we next year place a strong focus on preparing citizens for much more digital communication.

Today, the day before the big day, we are in fact in a position where we can say that we have almost reached our target regarding  the companies that have made a great effort to come this far. Therefore, we wish to thank them and the many partners who have helped support them in the transition process. Thanks to them, there are now around 430,000 companies that have ordered their NemID employee digital signature. There is still some way to go before all digital letter boxes have been created and everybody receives mail digitally from public authorities. Nevertheless, we have made good progress.

Citizens are already on the Internet

Huge transformations like those we have embarked on require that everybody is prepared for change. It becomes increasingly important that we are good at communicating the advantages of digital communication and that the authorities become even better at helping out in the process. We must tell citizens what they are to do quite specifically, where they will find solutions, and where help can be obtained. And then we must ensure that the critical infrastructure operates as it should. 

The majority of citizens is, fortunately prepared to and already use ICT in everyday life. They find it quite natural to communicate digitally. A total of 89 pct. of citizens aged 16-89 have access to the Internet at home, the majority of them are online every week, and most of them are online every day. About  8,000 senior citizens participated in the campaign “Seniorsurf Day” at the beginning of October, so also senior citizens are increasingly going digital.

We are at the same time very much aware that there will always be citizens who have difficulty in or, quite simply, are not capable of making use of digital communication with public authorities. These citizens will receive help and guidance, and there are good opportunities of receiving ICT training. It is also possible to be exempted from digital communication where special conditions make it necessary. 

Local efforts are crucial

The vast majority of Danes use ICT on a daily basis, which gives us a strong starting point – even though we may have technical problems from time to time. What we need to do now is to make citizens conscious of the fact that contact with public authorities begins on the Internet. This is what the forthcoming common public sector campaign will contribute to, including a special focus on the digital letter box, Digital Pos,t to make sure that all citizens are fully prepared for November next year when mail from public authorities becomes digital for citizens, too.

For the campaign to become a success and to ensure that our messages reach citizens nationwide, the contribution of municipalities, libraries, NGOs, etc. is crucial. I will therefore urge public authorities to take part in the collaboration by informing about and implementing activities. The campaign will support local efforts through campaign materials and a large-scale national media effort, including the presentation of a campaign film on Danish television channel TV2, TV spots with information to citizens from the public sector bodies, regional television channels, etc. as well as a web-based initiative on relevant websites. 

The campaign will be launched on 25 November 2013 and runs until 31 January 2014. By then, citizens will be well prepared for digital communication with public authorities. 

Lars Frelle-Petersen