• Strategy and Transformation


  • Citizen-Centric Personalized Digital Government
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Article August 31st, 2023

by Nortal

Proactive public services can change the course of society, but what does it actually take to get there?

Proactive public services (PPS) have the power to transform the way societies work. PPS refers to public services that require zero or minimal interaction from citizens, while making maximum use of automation. Creating sophisticated PPS requires a strong foundation of technical, environmental, and organizational building blocks. In this article, we break down the fundamentals of what it takes to build proactive public services.

Man at home with laptop browsing public services

Solid technical foundations 

A solid technical foundation greatly helps facilitate PPS’ implementation. Four technical building blocks are particularly relevant:

  1. A functioning digital identity ecosystem to allow users to securely access PPS that require interaction.
  2. Accurate, up-to-date data to provide the service reliably and efficiently to as many eligible users as possible.
  3. The ability to exchange personal data securely and efficiently within all areas of a public administration, and ideally the health and private sectors.
  4. Secure and legally binding electronic messaging between the public sector, citizens, and businesses.

Political support and regulatory reform

Moving the public sector from a reactive to a proactive modus operandi is not only a technical challenge – it requires substantive changes in organizations as well as legal and regulatory frameworks and approaches.

Building PPS requires the public sector to have access to a large amount of users’ data and know when to deliver these services. In other words, it knows who you are, what you do, and when things happen. Meanwhile, the government needs to have financial support for developing proactive services, clear regulations that enable the exchange of data between organizations, and regulations on data privacy and data collection.

The complexity and level of effort demanded to get these services off the ground require a legitimate desire for them to exist. This comes together when the core building blocks (such as trust in government and a supportive regulatory environment) are firmly in place.

Organizational building blocks

The complexity of implementing PPS at scale is nothing short of a stress test for public administrations’ organizational capabilities. Re-designing digital public services from a reactive to a proactive approach demands an in-depth understanding of the processes and organizations involved, as well as the ability and mindset to completely re-think them. An organization developing PPS will need to ensure its ways of working support this overhaul.

This means making sure the business processes behind the scene are supportive and that the way services are designed reflect user-centric design processes. This way of working, where feedback from service recipients is sought throughout the process and development is done in an agile, iterative, and co-creative way, also means that a proactive service is more likely to meet the needs of its users in its ideal format.

Overall, building PPS requires a change in the mindset and mental model of the organizations involved. Investments need be made in re- and upskilling, developing the necessary capacities and skill sets to create and deliver proactive services. Leaders are key in driving this change. They’re task is to establish an organization-wide understanding of the importance of proactivity.

People in the street

Proactive Public Services – the new standard for digital governments

Providing proactive public services must become a question of “how” and “when” – not “if”. This will require public sector organizations to develop new capabilities and understandings on how services should be designed proactively. Without this, they will face many challenges – some of which may be insurmountable.

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