Proactive government services aim to make easy, convenient, and efficient public services available for citizens to save them time and resources, but most importantly, to create a state that keeps citizens’ needs at its very core. Estonia, a country widely regarded as a truly digital society, made yet another innovative leap at the end of 2019 by launching proactive family and parental benefits, moving toward a new proactive governance model.
Innovation in government services is not simply moving its services online but foreseeing its citizens’ needs and providing support throughout key events in their lives, whether it is the birth of a child, purchasing a home, or retirement. This presumes an active role from the state, requiring a redesign of reactive government processes into event-based services. The new method significantly simplifies citizens’ lives by turning burdensome bureaucracy into a seamless user experience and proactive aid to those in need.
The main challenge with reactive public services is that citizens need to contact the state to determine the rights and benefits to which they are entitled. Often, this requires visiting a government office, examining voluminous information, and submitting numerous agency applications. Meanwhile, the citizens most in need of government support are also the most at risk if required to manage these complexities.
Estonia’s first proactive service of family and parental benefits aims to make life easier for parents. Before this, the information was fragmented, and parents lacked confidence that they had the necessary details about the applicable benefits. Furthermore, there was zero automation, and only 15% of benefits were based on offers. And even those proposals were processed by hand, resulting in laborious manual work for state officials and taking up to 65 minutes to process one person’s application.
In October 2019, parents in Estonia received a proactive offer for benefits for the first time via self-service portal. This means that parents of a newborn no longer need to apply for benefits but receive a proactive proposal from the government for the benefits they are entitled to, which they simply have to confirm.
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 collected from these databases, making it unnecessary for the citizen to provide that same information repeatedly. Once a country defines the problem and identifies the target group, it can quickly deliver benefits to those in need.
Today, 99.99% of registered births in Estonia are checked automatically to determine eligibility for parental benefits. Therefore, new parents can devote their time to a new family member instead of dealing with paperwork and validating if their rights are served, and they have all the information needed.
Furthermore, due to proactive services, state officials have more resources to direct their efforts into providing quality service and information to citizens. When automated processes take care of most of the standard cases, state officials have more time to pay attention to special cases. For example, when people eligible for benefits would not apply, whether by lack of awareness or other reasons, thereby reducing the number of non-take-up cases.
of registered births are checked automatically to determine eligibility for parental benefits
reduction in direct customer contacts per month for state officials
customer satisfaction with the proactive public service
Proactive public services are the future because of the simplicity of services for citizens and the government. It saves time and resources by eliminating the need for citizens to visit government offices and for officials to process each application’s data manually. The government offers its services and aid proactively.
However, what is unique about proactive public services, in addition to their seamless user experience, is the matter of social justice. Proactive public services help ensure government policies are effective and reach the people for whom they are intended.
Finally, the proactive service increasingly optimizes costs, generates higher added value, and significantly increases citizens’ satisfaction.