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Being proactive in a crisis

by Maris Leivategija, Project manager at Nortal, April 30, 2020

Agility might be a buzzword, but when working with digital government services, it does matter. The ability of a government to act quickly enables the development of new services at incredible speed — like helping its citizens during a severe crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed many governments to think harder about digitalization. In Estonia, where digitalization has been ongoing for more than 20 years, the economic ramifications of COVID-19 created a speedway for the novel nextlevel government services to reach people affected by the crisis.  

Estonia rolled out its first proactive service, parental benefits (read more from HERE), at the end of 2019. Together with Nortal, the logic of how one receives benefits from the government was turned completely on its head. The idea behind proactive services is that instead of citizens actively filling out forms, the government takes on the dynamic role of sending all eligible citizens an offer for benefits, which they must agree to with the simple click of a button.  

To allow this, an automated system based on complex algorithms operates in the background. This system supports a massive analysis of data, which creates the detailed information concerning who is eligible for benefits and in what amount. The system repeatedly validates data via various registers to approve the benefits and the entitled sums. It also enables the fewest people possible to manage the multitude of applications for different benefits. 

Proactive services, thus, utilize the databases and registries that already hold extensive information about citizens. When the proposal for benefits is sent proactively, all the data is pulled from these databases, making it unnecessary for the citizen to provide that same information repeatedly. Once the country defines the problem and identifies the target group, it is possible to deliver the benefits to those in need quickly. 

Tough times call for fast execution

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Estonia and Nortal were wellpositioned to act quickly and effectively. With both social distancing and schools closing, it became difficult for many parents to  work and take care of their children simultaneously. The problem was especially pressing for parents of children with special needs, so the government agreed on an exclusive benefit for those parents who will take time off from work to care for their offspring. Nortal had less than a month to set up the system for the new benefit. 

Nortal’s team is proud to be part of essential and groundbreaking developments, but moreover, they are focused on the quality of the software and the work behind it. Although they had to work swiftly, they made sure that the system is bulletproof and delivery of benefits is smooth. 

Three days after signing the act, 12,500 proposals for named benefits were proactively sent to the target group e-mails. In less than an hour, a thousand people had already examined the proposal. Three days later, the first payment was made. And four days after the proposals dropped into the virtual mailboxes, 2,363 people had accepted the proposed benefit. 

One of the parents wrote to the Social Security Board saying, “At the beginning of the lockdown, I moved to the countryside with our kids. We don’t have a television or a landline here, and we don’t listen to the radio very much. But it was so nice to see how the government cares about me by sending me an e-mail with a proposal for a special benefit. And everything is so simple and clear and super convenient. The money is already in my bank account. It is of great help to us.”