The future of public services is proactive
The public’s interaction with government services, both individuals and companies, should be significantly faster, more efficient and more user-friendly. For this reason, the German Online Access Act (OZG) mandates that federal, state and local governments offer their public administration services via digital portals by the end of 2022.
Digitalization and connectivity represent the two key tasks for implementing the OZG. For one thing, public administration services must be digitalized at the federal, state and local level. Secondly, an IT infrastructure has to be created that gives every user access to these services with just a few clicks.
Since Germany is a federal republic, the nationwide digitalization of public administration services will be a multi-layer process. Apart from the fact that every state assumes responsibility for implementing legislation, numerous laws, services and IT infrastructures are already in place. This makes the nationwide provisioning of homogenous digital services for all individuals and companies an extremely complex and costly undertaking.
Digitalization of public administration services, one of the German government’s central projects, is already underway despite the aforementioned challenges. The aim is not only to make the services more digital, but above all more user-friendly. The future is therefore proactive, with public administrative services automatically provided without an application or forms, and without any action from the user.
In the project “Digital Readiness Assessment and Piloting for German Public Services” (DR&P), researchers are examining concepts and methods that make this type of future possible and testing them on a prototype basis. The project relies on the administrative services taking a proactive role, thus going one important step further than what online formulas have provided to date.
As part of the DR&P project, the team developed and piloted a readiness assessment method for government services, which focused on efficient administrative processes, user-centric services and an approach that is attractive for public administration services employees. The solution employed new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digital ledger technologies (DLT) and with little effort took into account the stringent requirements of data privacy.
The prototype illustrated how public administrative services can already be implemented today without a person having to submit an application. With the help of a digital assistant referred to as the “Administrative Butler”, the system automatically retrieves the required documentation and submits the applications. Users can follow the progress of the “Butler” in real-time with a dashboard for full transparency.
The advantage of the solution developed by fortiss, which is based on current research results in the field of so-called proactive public administration services, is that automation of the respective service remains under the control of the user. From a technical standpoint, the Administrative Butler operates on the existing infrastructure and interfaces of the “FIT-Connect Delivery Service” from FITKO (a federal organization for central coordination and networking of digitalization projects) and BayernID, a digital administrative services portal run by the Bavarian Institute for Municipal Data Processing (AKDB), thus enabling fast transfer of the solution into practical application.
In concert with IBM, fortiss furthermore developed an open interface specification in line with the OpenAPI standard, which covers the typical interactions between users and public administration services, as well within public administration offices. Because the specification is uniform across all administrative services, it can be easily scaled.
Digitalization enables public administration services to transform from bureaucratic approval offices into user-centric service providers. The results of the project help to utilize abstract user-friendly concepts such as once-only and proactive behavior and transfer them to practical administrative activities. User are actively supported and provided with individualized public administrative services.
Automated processes boast especially high potential not only for individuals, but above all for companies and organizations that have to deal much more frequently with official paperwork and significantly more complex processes on a daily basis. If they could save time and money through proactive government services, it would ultimately benefit Germany as a business location and society as a whole.
With their project for proactive government services, IBM and fortiss have laid the foundation for user-friendly administrative services of the future. In a next step, the plan is to work together with state and local governments to transfer the results of the project to practical applications.
The results will then be further developed in a follow-up project by the Anstalt für Kommunale Datenverarbeitung in Bayern (AKDB) beginning in December 2022. The findings from this project will then be directly integrated into the AKDB portfolio as products.