A firsthand experience with Denmark’s eGovernment strategy

Lost in the blue water between Norway, Sweden and Germany, you’ll find a cluster of islands and a peninsula known as Denmark, but don’t be fooled, this country is anything but off the map. With over 5 million citizens, Denmark is currently ranked as the happiest country in the world by the UN in their World Happiness Report, where Canada is sixth on the list. Denmark seems to have a good understanding of how to please their citizens, so what can be contributing to this overwhelming happiness of citizens? I wondered if it could relate their public services, sustainability, or bicycle culture?

Copenhagen-cycle-routeI had the chance to look into this when my studies took me to this beautiful country. I was living in Copenhagen, at the heart of it all. During the four months abroad, I slowly became accustomed to biking in all weather conditions, saying ‘Hej’ (pronounced ‘Hi’) for both greeting and saying goodbye to others, and the crazy rush hour in the bike lanes. That said, there is so much more to their culture. The country has a relaxed atmosphere and citizens enjoy a work life balance. Danes live with a sense of freedom and opportunity to pursue personal goals in life.

After I got accepted into the school (and after wiping the tears of joy off my face), it was time to find housing and register for classes. I found these tasks quite easy and was not affected by the 6-hour time and language difference. There was an online portal where I could access my classes, apply for housing and communicate with professors, with all communications held in English. By the time I landed in Copenhagen, there was only one task left to do in person, and that was to verify my presence in the country. Soon after, I received my civil registration number (CPR number), which certified I had residency in Denmark, as well as a letter asking me to sign up for Digital Post. Having lived in Denmark and seen the obvious benefits from a holistic e-government strategy, I asked myself; could we achieve something similar in Canada?

An online experience backed by research  

It was only once I started researching eGovernment that I noticed how well Denmark is performing within their information and communication technologies (ICTs).The country is rated well above average on the four eGovernment benchmarks within the European Commission’s study. The benchmarks are:

  • User centricity: indicates to what extent (information about) a service is provided online and how this is perceived.
  • Transparent government: the transparency of their own responsibilities and performance, the process of service delivery and personal data involved.
  • Cross border mobility: indicates to what extent EU citizens can use online services in another country.
  • Key enablers: the online available of electronic identification (eID), electronic documents (eDocuments), authentic sources, electronic safe (eSafe), and single sign on (SSO).

These results were measured using a life-events approach, which included individuals attempting to start a business, find a job, study, and move, etc.

How did Denmark succeed in eGovernment?

Their initial eGovernment strategy began in 2011, with key industry members collaborating to define the details of their approach. Ralf Klitgaard Jensen of Kommunernes Landsforening (national advocacy organisation of Danish municipalities), describes Denmark’s approach to developing strategy in the public sector as “steady and linear”. One major challenge Denmark faced was to create a strategy that allowed them to “adapt in the years to come with the explosion of technology.”

DigitalThe strategy developed as a two-pronged approach; mandatory digital self-service and digital post, both introduced through legislation. All citizens with a CPR number, with the certain exceptions for those with disabilities, above the age of 15 had to register for Digital Post from public authorities by November 2014. Digital Post includes letters from the hospital, pension statements, student grant information, etc. By November 1, of the 5 million citizens in Denmark; 66% registered, 10% were exempt and 24% were automatically registered by public officials.

After one year of implementation, 60 million letters were sent with savings of roughly $150 million Canadian. By 2020, their strategy aims to save between $350-750 million Canadian.

Denmark’s eGovernment contributed significantly to achieving public sector modernisation and efficiency goals. Internal process efficiency across levels of government improved by 58%, faster service delivery by 45%, as well as cost or time saving for the users by 31%.

Accenture Digital density index

             Accenture Digital Density Breakdown

Applying Denmark’s success in Canada

I wondered if the same strategy would work within a Canadian context. There are several indications that can answer this question. In Denmark, 93% of households are connected to the Internet, while Canada stands at 87%. The UN eGovernment Survey 2014 gave Denmark a score of 0.9132 for their Human Capital Index (HCI), while Canada received 0.8952, where the higher the number, the better the country’s ability to perform and create shareholder value through their competencies, knowledge and expertise. Canada’s HCI score is not far from Denmark, demonstrating the availability and strength of resources. Both countries also have a democratic political system with the Parliament (Folketinget) as the country’s highest authority.

Accenture produced the Digital Density Index, capturing Canada’s integration of digital technologies and processes into business practices, as well as the degree to which digital is enabled in the institutional and economic environment. Canada scores in the top half of the sample in each of the four components (seen at right).

The Institute of eGovernment at Waseda University Tokyo in cooperation with the International Academy of CIO produced an eGovernment ranking survey for 2015. Results show that Denmark ranks third, while Canada ranks ninth, based on a survey of 63 countries. If we break the ranking down into its respective indicators, Canada falls close to Denmark within open government, e-participation, and management optimization.

From the information discussed, we can gather that Canada is similar to Denmark. We can gain inspiration and apply similar   approaches within our government to develop a more digital country.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog or Canada’s eGovernment strategy, let us know in the comments below.

Lisa is a consultant with over four years of experience with a focus on business process and service design. She has completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing from the John Molson School of Business in Montreal, with a semester abroad at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.


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