Jens Krieger Røyen, Head of the Data and Architecture Division, discusses the Danish journey of integrating a digital government and future data-driven ambitions.
Hailed as one of the leading examples of how to efficiently roll out digital government across the State, Krieger Røyen is quick to point out that Denmark, which largely resembles Ireland in its population size and public sector make up, is still evolving in its own delivery of the service.
He emphasises solid foundations as the basis for the country’s recognised success. Alongside strong inter-governmental collaboration, high citizen confidence and the foresight of developing multi-year digital strategies from as early as 2001, the Danes were also “blessed” with a Central Persons Registry dating back to the late 1960s, which formed the foundation of their first generation Electronic Identification (eID) service.
Krieger Røyen points to three key observations that have taken place over a 15-year span of digital strategies. Firstly, was the shift from the initial eGovernment strategies, separate to other government strategies, to converging eGovernment within these strategies. Denmark is now at a stage where eGovernment is no longer distinguishable from the ‘normal’ government business. Secondly, not only did Denmark lay the foundations for a digital government but in doing so created an enhanced digital role for the State within society. Delivery of digital identification is now as much an important infrastructure in the 21st century as railway was in the previous century. Thirdly, after completing the foundations of digital transformation, Denmark introduced mandatory digital services.
Explaining the significance of this step, Krieger Røyen says: “Our role out of eID as part of our digital strategy up to 2011 recognised the cost savings that could be achieved by going digital. However, originally we saw low penetration of the service by users. By making the service mandatory, with the stipulation that we leave no one behind, we saw impressive results. Not only was their cost savings in the service uptake but we saw a huge civic lift in education around digital. This put a greater onus back on service providers to ensure that the services are of high enough quality for effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.”
The transformation has worked. The government has surpassed its original target of making 80 per cent of all applications received by government digital. For example, recent statistics show that 95 per cent of applications for state pension are digital, as are 92 per cent of student loan repayments and 88 per cent of preliminary income returns.
Another successful mandatory introduction has been that of digital post for all citizens from the age of 15 from public services. Its legal basis means that post delivered digitally has the same legal statute as physical post. A court summons, for example, can be sent to a digital post box and carries the same legal weight as if it were hand-delivered.
Currently 90 per cent of Danish citizens are subject to mandatory use of a digital post box, while 9.8 per cent have been granted exemption. On the government side, in 2016 public services in Denmark sent out 112.6 million messages via digital post, with an estimated cost saving between €1-€2 per item.
Krieger Røyen adds: “Again cost was a significant factor but not the only benefit. The installation of these digital services has made the roll out of other services easier, both in terms of replication and in citizen acceptance.”
Krieger Røyen points out that there is still significant progress to be made in the transition to a fully digital government, with the latest government strategy emphasising a strong focus on building a “trusted golden source” of basic data to be shared across public services.
Ambitions to 2020 aim to integrate this trusted data source into a common architecture for categorising and sharing data and developing a national data infrastructure that makes transport of this data more efficient.
“We must have an inventory of our key data to lift the capabilities and the competence of our public sector bodies using it. We are now embarking on an era of transformative digital government based on data alongside digitally literate citizens who trust our methods.”