Ina Corydon, Deputy CEO of the Municipality of Copenhagen, Denmark, explains the role of city government in supporting Denmark’s national digitisation strategy.
Denmark’s latest e-government strategy, ‘Joint Public Digital Strategy: The Digital Road to Future Prosperity 2011-2015’ released in August 2011, challenged government agencies to use new technologies to step up from providing information and services, to creating genuine engagement with citizens. The municipality of Copenhagen, the largest in Denmark, has risen to this challenge by providing a more personalised and collaborative user experience.
The Danish government has created three main systems to enhance digitisation and e-services: My Page, eBoks and NemID.
The personalised ‘My Page’ within www.borger.dk, the citizen portal, gives citizens a comprehensive view of their personal interactions with public authorities. Citizens can access information under the themes of housing, economy, children and retirement, as well as a variety of self-service e-solutions through the portal. International citizens can also use My Page to check the status of Danish applications for services such as visas, passports, and work passes.
Citizens also have access to a secure email and archive service called eBoks. This independent organisation was jointly created by the Denmark postal service, private IT supplier KMD, and PBS, though Postal Danmark and PBS bought out KMD’s share in 2009.
This public-private collaboration is now an extremely effective one-stop-shop for digital communication - more than 20,000 public and private sector organisations interact with their customers exclusively through eBoks.
“I’ve had it for years!” Corydon exclaims. “I don’t get any papers from my insurance company, labour organisation, or the bank. I’ve just selected the private organisations that have joined, so I get all my mail from these organisations in the secure mailbox.” eBoks also allows users to store important documents such as birth certificates and contracts securely online. “It’s more than a secure email, it’s also a secure archive,” she states.
The third initiative of the digitisation strategy is NemID, an upgrade to the existing digital signature system, launched in July 2010 and created to facilitate secure digital communication across several platforms and portals. Citizens can use their NemID to access services in both the private and public sector, including My Page, eBoks, internet banking and tax services.
In the first year after its launch, NemID was used 310 million times by 79 per cent of the adult population of Denmark. The secure logon process increases convenience for citizens who can use the same digital signature to log into several different accounts, and reduces illegitimate intrusions.
While these service are currently optional for citizens, the government is planning to make several self-service solutions mandatory by 2014; services such as applying for schools and building permits will move online completely.
… local delivery
Corydon explains the role of Copenhagen: “In Autumn, the government launched the new strategy till 2015, and within that strategy, it was agreed that we had to make digitisation mandatory. We’ve agreed that the 30 most used self-service solutions are going to be mandatory to use all over Denmark. As the largest city in Denmark, Copenhagen is heading this effort and implementing it sooner than everyone else.”
The digitisation strategy also focuses on closer digital public cooperation across state, regional and municipal authorities, to ensure that platforms proven to be effective are used by all public organisations, and to prevent resource wastage in building redundant solutions.
The digitisation and citizen engagement solutions are created not only to improve the provision of public services to the citizens, but also to engage citizens and spread information in new and more effective ways.
“My role in the city of Copenhagen is to take care of the citizens when they get through on the phone, email or chat promptly,” says Corydon. “We have a channel strategy team, moving people from our physical centres to the phone or the websites. When people phone us, we try to explain what we can do for them on the web. That’s quite a training job these days.”
This can prove to be a challenge, especially with international citizens who don’t understand the Danish welfare system and don’t know about services that the Danish government offers its citizens. As Corydon explains, high taxation in Denmark ensures that citizens get many services such as art, leisure and sport activities, for free. The municipal authority of Copenhagen has the task of informing the global citizens settling there about public services offered that could help them integrate into Danish society.
The municipal authority is using new platforms to engage citizens and spread awareness about its services. Social media websites such as Facebook are useful to “meet people where they are”, as Corydon puts it.
“It’s not always easy to contact people - the way we used to contact people is not the way people do it today. Now, it’s more about using, where it makes sense, the possibilities of the internet.” The municipal authority is also preparing to launch videos on Youtube to train people to use the self-service options provided by the government.
The government is now moving into the mobile world. “We see the mobility trend becoming really huge. I’m heading things within the mobility area in Copenhagen, to see what services we can deliver on the phone or smartphones,” Corydon says.
The municipal authority has already launched several apps that citizens can use on their smartphones to access public services, and is carrying out tests to include services such as using NemID on mobile platforms.
Corydon’s department is also researching and analysing global trends in this sector. “It’s always important before you really decide on your strategy to look into what’s happening around the world. So we are in an analysis phase – seeking out trends, benchmarking, what to do, what not to do,” she explains.
Focus on Growth
Digitisation of public services and citizen engagement is important for growth in Copenhagen. “Capitals attract growth and businesses,” says Corydon. Increased public services and higher efficiency help Copenhagen attract more growth. The government expects to see higher growth rates from companies as they begin to shift their interactions with government agencies online, which will reduce costs both in terms of money and time spent.
Businesses can also cut costs incurred in customer interaction - the eBoks website boasts of allowing businesses to save 80 per cent on postage costs, as well as cutting administration costs and increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Copenhagen is also incorporating international citizens into its digitisation and engagement strategy. “We are focusing on getting a global aspect within Copenhagen. In citizen servicing, we really have to be aware of global citizens and get them integrated into Danish society,” says Corydon.
The government has created a one-stop-shop for international citizens coming to Copenhagen, containing the information that they need about visas and permits, and spreading awareness of free services the government offers to integrate them into Danish society.
Corydon notes that Copenhagen is increasingly focusing on environmental issues, such as trying to be carbon free. Digital communication through portals like eBoks helps reduce paper usage in the city. Copenhagen is using efforts such as green city planning to attract more businesses and talent by communicating the digitisation story and promoting the city as a nice place to live.
Copenhagen is leading Denmark in e-government adoption—the majority of its population already uses online self-service options provided by the government, making it possible for these services to move online completely for almost all citizens by 2014.
However, as the largest municipality in Denmark, Copenhagen has some challenges to overcome. Ensuring inclusiveness in the mandatory digitisation is one of them. “In Denmark, more than 75 per cent of the citizens have access to the internet, but not all use the self-service solutions. So we really have a job on our hands in getting people trained for that by 2015,” Corydon explains.
Her research has also shown that 20 per cent of the population, including groups such as the elderly and mentally disabled, will be unlikely to use online self-service solutions. Her department is trying to promote the use of mobile solutions for these groups, since, as she says, “in Denmark, even if you are ill or elderly or homeless, you have a phone or a smartphone.” Ultimately, the physical public service centres will remain for people who cannot use either the internet or mobile.