How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
The development of public digitisation in Denmark is a story about political consensus and bold decision-making that enabled the reforms for change. The result is that today, 90% of citizens’ communication with the public sector is digital, as well as all communication between businesses and the public sector is digital.
A positive effect is that the Danish citizens have very high demands and expectations for the quality of the public services they receive. That’s good news but also a challenge.
My role as director of the Danish Agency for Digitisation is therefore to secure and further advance the best possible digital service for the Danish citizens in a way that maintains citizens’ trust in the public sector.
One of the cornerstones for a secure and trustworthy digital transformation in Denmark is the EasyID, which is our national electronic identity for citizens, employees, public authorities and businesses. It serves as the key to all of digital Denmark, and can be used to access everything from your bank account to your medical information or your automatically pre-registered taxes.
Another key component to the Danish digital infrastructure is the national citizen portal, which serves as a digital citizen service centre. Here, citizens can do everything from changing their address to signing their children up for kindergarten, or even apply for divorce. It provides a single point of access to both central, regional and local citizen services.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
To keep innovating and advancing the public services, we made an agreement between the government, the regions and the municipalities, called the Digitisation Pact. This agreement focuses on developing much more citizen-centric digital services through, for instance, coherent user journeys.
The purpose is to enable citizens to easily serve themselves, while experiencing more coherent and up-to-date digital service across the public sector.
As part of this, we have improved the eID; we are developing a driver’s license app; and we are creating ‘My Overview’, which gives citizens access to a single and personalised overview of their ongoing cases and balances with the public sector on the digital citizen portal.
To harvest more experience from AI in the public sector, we have launched 15 ‘signature projects’ in cooperation with the municipalities and regions. These will investigate the opportunities of artificial intelligence in practice to gain insights into how AI solutions can benefit citizens in their everyday lives. Examples include matchmaking between unemployed citizens and employers and use of AI for better organization of treatment strategies for cancer patients. An essential element of these projects is that they must assess the ethical issues that can arise.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
One of the things I have been proudest of in my career is creating at workplace where it is possible to have a good work-life balance, and at the same time, for Denmark to be one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to public digitisation. I believe that good results come from thriving employees, why it is a culture I have been devoted to implementing.
Therefore, it is important that all employees, including managers and directors, can pick up their children from school and daycare.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?
The Danish population has a high degree of trust in the government and their handling of their personal information. This is a good starting point for digitising public citizen services, but it is also crucial that we maintain this trust.
Therefore, it is important to explore the possibilities of new technology in the public sector in a responsible way that ensure citizens’ trust in public authorities. Digitisation shouldn’t be done at any cost, but needs to be done, so that it creates the highest possible value for the citizen.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?
This year, the Government launched the Data Ethics Council to address the ethical questions raised by new technology. For 2020, we will focus on how to make data ethics more concrete, so that it will be easier to understand and apply in practice.
This is both exciting and very difficult. Furthermore, I find it interesting how we can keep innovating the public sector through collaboration with the private sector and universities. An area I find very interesting to explore further in 2020 is therefore GovTech.
What are your priorities for 2020?
In 2020, my focus will be on rethinking and innovating the joint public services. We need to customise our governance so that it accommodates new ways of thinking about and working with public digitisation. This includes further advancing our digital infrastructure to make it more user-friendly and more secure.
Furthermore, some of the most innovative technological solutions are being developed by startups and at the universities. We need these solutions in the public sector to address big societal challenges, such as climate change, in a more innovative way than what we have previously done. Therefore, I will prioritise to explore new ways of collaborating in 2020.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
One challenge I would like to take on in 2020 is to provide more coherent public service. Denmark is a complex welfare state that provides many services to our citizens. Unfortunately, most existing digital services are structured according to the responsibility of each authority.
Instead, digital service should be built to respond to citizens’ life situations and businesses’ needs, by gathering all relevant services in one place to make it easier for citizens to navigate in the public jungle of administrative and legal frameworks.
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
One of the things that makes me proud every time is when other countries are looking towards Denmark for inspiration for public digitisation. This also means that I get to travel a lot and share my work and experiences as well as get inspiration from other countries.
In 2019, I was especially impressed to witness how they are approaching public digitisation in Japan and Israel, and also on an important trip to Brazil and Uruguay where Denmark officially joined D9, which in turn became Digital Nations.