• Strategy and Transformation


  • Citizen-Centric Personalized Digital Government
  • Government

Article August 31st, 2023

by Nortal

Aiming towards unparalleled, frictionless access to public services

Digitalization in governments can change the way societies work, lead to an improved human development index, and save billions of dollars. How? By building and offering proactive public services (PPS). PPS refers to public services that require zero or minimal interaction from citizens, while making maximum use of automation. Think tax declarations that take seconds, social benefits automatically deposited into your bank account, or a new driver’s license in the mailbox when an expiration date creeps close.

Defining proactive public services

The first wave of public sector digitization focused on making services accessible online. The next iteration is about automating these public services, so that they require as little interaction from users and service providers as possible. Proactive public services (PPS) represent the pinnacle of this new wave of digital public services. In their most sophisticated form, these digital public services can be designed entirely without user interaction – offering unparalleled, frictionless access to public services.

Let’s take a look at what precisely do we mean when we talk about proactive public services

In essence, PPS are digital public services that are being proactively provided to users whose eligibility has been predetermined by the service provider. The concept of PPS is not new. It emerged within broader debates around government service digitalization in the 2010s, and over the past few years several definitions of what constitutes such services have come out in academia. It is closely associated with (but not the same as) other concepts such as life event-based services and “applicationless” services. PPS differ from these concepts in that they are proactive, triggered by events, and range from proactive information to transactions.

Key definitions and characteristics of PPS

  1. Are proactive, rather than reactive. The main characteristic of these services is that they are provided proactively by the public administration, based on an assessment of potential users’ eligibility for specific government services or benefits, rather than initiated by the user. E.g. citizens can be proactively informed that their driver’s license is about to expire, rather than having to seek this information themselves.
  2. Are triggered by events. PPS must be based on a trigger that initiates the service. Often, these are life events that the state is involved in, such as a birth or marriage.
  3. Range from proactive information to proactive transactions. PPS can take different forms, ranging from proactively providing information (such as the above example on the expiration of a citizen’s driver’s license) to entirely proactive transactions without user interaction. Examples of the latter include the issuance of tax and personal identification numbers in Germany and other countries, or minors’ automatic enrollment in Estonia’s national health insurance scheme.
Frau in einer gelben Bluse mit einem roten Ordner

Proactive Public Services – the new standard for digital governments

Proactive public services are part of a wider transformation towards proactive government that delivers users public services without waiting for formal requests. It implies a capacity to anticipate societal and economic developments, as well as users’ needs, by capturing real-time information and applying it to re-design services.

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