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Danish government launches wide-ranging digital services project

Denmark's government has launched an ambitious project to digitise and automate public services

The Danish government has announced a digital project that includes 22 separate initiatives, including an app-based citizens digital platform that can be used to access all publicly held data on Danish citizens.

The World-Class Digital Service (WCDS), as it’s known, was introduced by The Ministry for Public Sector Innovation (MPSI) with the objective to implement an integrated approach to accelerate the process of digitisation in Denmark’s public sector.

The societal changing aspect of the WCDS is reflected in certain high-profile initiatives. One of the most prominent of these is a Digital Healthcare project that would enable homecare services’ recipients to access professional support and communicate directly with medical teams, or specific health specialists, over digital platforms.

WCDS forms part of the government’s long-term plan to transform how frontline public health services are delivered in Denmark. The objective is to scale-up the use of digital health solutions and platforms to help reduce non-emergency visits to clinics and hospitals.

The same digital healthcare initiative will be used to reduce the number of homecare visits by medical and other healthcare and community service professionals. The catalyst for change here is cost reduction and achieving public spending savings through improved efficiencies in the delivery of client services.

“Digitisation has major advantages for municipal authorities and public services. It will enable public authorities to better deal with data on living conditions, social security benefits and child benefits. Service users will be able to access more information on public services and benefits they receive digitally,” said Sophie Løhde, Denmark’s public sector innovation minister.

Denmark’s growing reputation as a digital innovator has influenced a government proposal to join the so-called Digital 7 (D7) network in 2019. The D7 serves as a collaborative forum between the most advanced countries in the field of public digitalisation.

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The plan underscores Denmark’s intent to become a leading and innovative player within public services digitisation. The current roll call of D7 members includes Estonia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Israel, the UK and Uruguay.

WCDS will enable more government departments and municipalities to move more information on public services and benefits to digital platforms such as My Overview. My Overview, which is currently accessible on the Danish government’s portal, is a one-stop resource for public services information ranging from personal taxes, passport renewal, digital post, healthcare services, public housing and even school enrolment.

The MPSI is working to develop an app for My Overview that will allow users to communicate and conduct various functions more easily with those government and municipal departments responsible for delivering public services. Moreover, the WCDS will introduce trust-building measures that are intended to add greater transparency around how public authorities handle and store personal data.

The My Overview digital platform will be redesigned to give citizens access to a comprehensive digest of what data state departments and local authorities hold on record about them.

Public trust in the government’s digitisation plans is very much on the mind of the MPSI. A recent survey commissioned by the MPSI found 83% of Danish citizens have confidence in the government and public agencies to process personal data efficiently and honesty.

The same poll discovered 37% of Danes hold a high level of trust in public bodies to reliably and ethically handle personal information. The MPSI is hoping that its proposed trust-building measures will elevate the public confidence meter to 90% by 2024.

“Denmark has a really good track record at using digital solutions in the public sector,” said Løhde. “We need to raise the level of our ambitions in the digital field and continue to develop and become one of the very best countries in the world for digitisation in the future. We are now taking the next big step.”

Strategic collaboration

The ambitious reach of the WCDS project is evident in the MPSI’s decision to form a strategic collaborative partnership pact with municipal organisations Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) and Danske Regioner (Danish Regions). This emphasises the government’s determination to spread the full benefits emanating from the public sector digitisation reform across all of Denmark’s five regions and 98 municipalities.

The national partnership format agreed between the MPSI, KL and Danske Regioner includes the establishment of a jointly financed Technology Investment Fund (TIF). The TIF will fund approved projects to develop and test different digital solutions for downstream use in publicly delivered services such as healthcare, education and housing.

The TIF is projected to invest DKK410m (€55m) from 2018-2022.

While the MPSI’s WCDS project has been generally well received in Denmark, it has not been universal. Concerns over the pace and impact of the proposed digital initiatives, particularly those affecting the delivery of healthcare services, have been raised by the DaneAge Association (DAA/ Ældre Sagen), a non-profit organisation with 650,000 members which represents the interests of senior citizens in Denmark.

“Some of the digital technology changes that are proposed in the government’s digital project do not suit older citizens, especially those who may be mentally impaired or are accustomed to homecare visits,” said Per Tostenæs, a senior adviser to the DAA’s management board.

“For some, using a computer or other device to communicate with digital platforms could be an overwhelming and uncomfortable experience for senior citizens.”

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