Online Public Services for the Benefit of Citizens

Article of the month

Helsinki, 1 January, 2005 — Online Public Services for the Benefit of Citizens

The project for online public services JUPA is part of the Information Society Policy Programme launched by the Finnish Government. The JUPA project which is led by the Ministry of the Interior aims to bring public services online for use by citizens. The project runs 'till 31 December 2005.

The general objective of the project is to improve and enhance public service production and productivity and to guarantee the availability and quality of public services. The project also aims to support cooperation between municipalities, and cooperation between municipalities and other public and private actors. In addition, the JUPA project endeavours to promote the use of online public services in Finland and to make the work carried out within the project accessible to all.

The JUPA project has two phases. In the first phase, which has now come to an end, a selected set of services and related processes were modelled from a customer-oriented point of view. During the second phase, specified services will be implemented as online services.

Background to the JUPA project

In Finland, the number of electronic Government services has increased during the past year. However, the provision and development of electronic services varies greatly from one municipality to another both in terms of quantity and quality. All municipalities have now opened their website, and some of them actually provide a wide variety of online public services.

Although there are electronic services available in Finland, public authorities do not yet, however, provide online many interactive transaction services that would enable customers to lodge applications, follow the processing of matters and receive decisions electronically. Why is that?

Implementing a real chain of electronic transaction services requires a lot more work, time, and effort than bringing individual forms, for example, online. It means, on the contrary, that the entire service chain must be examined; we must know who is the doer, what does the doer do and how, and by means of which instruments and which data warehouse.

The above work was started in the first phase of the JUPA project. The operating models and data warehouses of ten different projects throughout Finland were examined for services selected for the project. Transaction and service chains were also described and processes streamlined. Furthermore, operations were chained and interconnected in a new way. Process descriptions were made from a customer’s point of view, but they also include service providers’ operations. The aim is not only to bring services online but also to streamline and enhance the entire process both with regard to the customer and the service provider. The specification of services was started at the beginning of June 2004 and concluded in a seminar in Helsinki on 9 November 2004, where the results were published.

When starting to specify services, the current situation was taken into account. The problems and the needs for development were recorded, and the expectations and requirements of different stakeholders for the process outlined. The process of how customers currently use online services was also described. Describing the current situation is not adequate enough, but it is necessary to a certain extent, however, to clearly pinpoint the problems. It is important to further continue this work and to find solutions to these problems.

The services specified within the JUPA project comprise services for the elderly and services related to education, housing, construction, the environment, children’s day care, tourism, culture and leisure mainly as municipal services, and the processing of goods transport operating licences as a Government service for citizens.


Electronic Services as Part of the Service Chain

But what does all this have to do with improving electronic services? It is often considered that improving the operation is one thing, and building electronic services is another; the latter usually takes place after the nuts and bolts of the matter have been tackled. The JUPA project, however, has been based on the idea that electronic services and service production must be improved simultaneously. In fact, a service transaction can be either physical or electronic. The point is by what means the service is provided and obtained.

The main thing is that customers obtain the services they need smoothly and that they can also choose which way and channel to use. It is true that we still prefer obtaining some services face-to-face, whereas some transactions would be easier over the Internet if this was possible and secure. We all have our preferences. The aim of improving electronic services is not to force people to make transactions over the Internet if they do not wish to do so. However, people should be offered opportunities for this. Electronic services can also significantly promote the equal provision of services particularly in areas where the number of physical service points is being reduced.

Developing real electronic transaction services is basically about improving the operation. Nobody wants to have current inefficient structures and operating models online as such. Nobody would benefit from that. On the contrary, it would increase costs and inconvenience. In the end, the aim of developing processes is to improve productivity and efficiency. Improving efficiency all too often means squeezing more out of employees. The basis for process-oriented thinking is, however, to look for the reasons for inefficiency in operating models. When a process has been developed, it is, nevertheless, very important that everyone involved in the process does their share with efficiency and commitment and that they understand their own input to the matter.

There should no longer be any real obstacles to improving electronic transaction services. The Information Society Policy Programme supports the development of operating procedures and processes, intersectoral cooperation, utilisation of information and communications technologies and development of new electronic services as a whole. The JUPA project implements these objectives for its part. Many municipalities throughout Finland have expertise and they are committed to improving electronic services. This became perfectly clear when the first phase of the JUPA project came to an end. It is also clear that developing processes is a demanding task.

What Will Happen in the Project in 2005?

Next year the new operating models must be developed into efficient electronic services. The projects started in the specification phase have thus come to an end. New partners will be selected for the second phase of the JUPA project through an application process.

The JUPA project has now issued a public call for applications. Every municipality, subregion, government agency or some other organisation can apply for the second phase if they wish to be involved in creating new electronic transaction services of high quality. The deadline for applications is 31 January 2005. Applicants can apply for projects to be launched for introducing either services specified within the JUPA project or some other services with revised operating procedures.

There are many challenges ahead – both operational and technical. We can, however, succeed through cooperation!

For further information, please contact:
Pia Paaso
Project Manager
Ministry of the Interior

JUPA
Project for online public services
pia.paaso@intermin.fi

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