While industries across the globe are struggling to go digital amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Denmark is reaping the benefits of a 5-stage multi-year strategy by the government. However, it would be good to note that Denmark’s digitisation efforts did not start there. Its success started back in 1996 when it became one of the first countries to formulate a nationwide digitisation strategy.
reduced processing time and 296 million EUR annually has Denmark saved with their digitalisation strategy
Now, the European Data Portal 2020 edition ranked the country as Europe’s top nation in terms of open data maturity, measured through policy (3rd), portal (3rd), impact (1st), and data quality (1st).
Denmark also ranked third in the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) last year, with its connectivity ranked as the best among member states. Other dimensions measured were human capital (7th), use of internet services (4th), integration of digital technology (5th), and digital public services (3rd).
A Danish citizen simply needs a secure digital key to access “a wide range of services online” in both the “public and private sector,” reports Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From registration to banking, transactions have been digital for quite some time now.
This level of government-enabled convenience works well because citizen’s trust the system behind it, developed by the public and private sector.
While digitisation may be simply seen as a transition in format or a departure from analog, it is a crucial step towards a safe and effective digital transformation. Connecting all services online demands proper infrastructure and technology, with proper support by the government. Industries with a strong innovation culture also reinforce a digital mindset, encouraging employees to find better ways for working with digital. And when companies find solutions, the government is open to implementing them.
In 2018, the Danish government pumped 134 million EUR in a Digital Growth Strategy which includes “38 concrete initiatives” dealing with education, talent acquisition, and cybersecurity. Denmark also has a National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, recognizing possible benefits of the technology on existing processes. While these actions are quite recent, it is part of a long-term plan by the government to digitise the entire country.
Denmark’s success started with one of the world’s first digitisation strategies created in 1996. With a centralized resident database already in place since 1968, a digital-first communication system, and a highly connected citizenry, rolling out new systems and processes was relatively easier.
Government data shows that Denmark’s digitisation effectively saves 296 million EUR annually and has reduced processing time by 30%. Digitalisation also meant improved transparency in ministries and organizations. But it took six major stages for Denmark to reach this status.
First, the digital postbox, e-Boks, was established in 2001 in Denmark. e-Boks offers companies, institutions, and citizens an effective, secure, and user-friendly platform that enables digital distribution, interaction, and storage of important digital information.
Digital signatures were created in 2001 and the public sector was required to communicate online. Standardizing processes with all sectors on board was key in starting digitisation.
Three years later, everyone was required to have a Nemkonto or Easy Account. All financial with the government can be done through a Nemkonto, such as tax refunds, pensions, student loans, and other benefits. Private companies also have their own Easy Account, allowing them to pay salaries, insurance benefits, and other payments through it.
Digital IDs eventually replaced Digital Signatures and are also mandatory for everyone in Denmark. Also known as NemID, it is the only account needed from online banking to viewing tax files.
The creation of Citizen.dk was the fifth major stage in Denmark’s innovation. This public-private collaboration provides a user-friendly one-stop portal where citizens can easily avail of public sector services on their own. It took four waves of feature updates to fully centralize independent efforts by authorities into one website.
Lastly, public digital posts were made mandatory in 2014. The infrastructure behind the public digital post was built by e-Boks. While other countries favor paper-first communication, Denmark considers digital correspondences as just as good as physical ones. This is accessed through one’s NemID and is absolutely convenient for individuals and organizations alike
Since Denmark is “digital by default,” any transaction can be done online. All you need is a NemID, and everyone has one.
Financial matters are mostly done cashless, with secure two-factor authentication in place for added security. Citizens get digital payslips and online banking makes payments and other transactions seamless.
Getting in touch with public authorities is also made easier. Crime reporting, public health service appointments, and government inquiries are also done digitally.
By requiring everyone to go digital and having the proper infrastructure to back up this move, no individual or business is left behind in Denmark. Of course, a small amount of Danes, particularly those who are physically challenged or in the older population, can still request to get their documents sent to them physically. They could always ask for the assistance of the government and civil service offices regarding these matters, but they always have peace of mind, knowing that their digital files are always available to them.
A Wiretek report notes how Denmark stands out in digitisation, which is the foundation for different technology industries to succeed. Audio and Technology brands are thriving in the country, for example, together with business solution development companies. Time saved thanks to the ease of doing business in Denmark frees up hours for corporations to explore innovations in the field. That is also why research and development centers for global software companies are also in Denmark. The environment is simply ideal for the technology field.
Just like other tech companies in Denmark, e-Boks benefits from the government’s initiatives to encourage its citizens to embrace digitisation. For example, individuals and businesses can easily get started with mail services using their NemID. With faster transactions backed up by stable and secure networks, saved time allows the company to continue improving its services and significantly contribute to the country’s digitisation efforts. That’s why e-Boks has earned the public’s confidence, as it was recognized as one of Denmark’s most trusted brands in 2019.
Denmark’s digitisation success today is the fruit of its numerous investments in the past decades. But the government still sees room for digital growth. Their Digital Strategy for 2020 has three main goals: digital solutions must be easy-to-use, quick, and ensure high quality; digitisation must provide good conditions for growth, and security and confidence must be in focus at all times. This institutional mindset encourages individuals and organizations to trust the system.
So far, government efforts to innovate have worked. Its next step is going green.
Right now, Denmark’s energy is 30% renewable with the goal of going fossil-free by 2050. It has successfully “decoupled” economic growth from energy consumption, disproving the common belief that the former can only be achieved with the extensive use of the latter.
Recognizing that no industry has a monopoly on going green, Denmark continues its “holistic approach” in “developing integrated, affordable and sustainable solutions.”
Following Denmark’s path may sound simple, but it demands a lot of planning and dedication. To review, these are what other countries can learn from Denmark’s best practices.
Invest in infrastructure and proper record systems.
The main foundation of their entire digitisation, after all, is a centralized resident database. Proper infrastructure also assures that services are always accessible. Anyone can avail of services they need, wherever they are in the country.
Earn public trust and confidence.
The key behind any successful digitisation strategy, in the end, is trust and confidence in the system. Denmark created a proper long-term strategy to go digital and made public digital posts mandatory. They ensured that private data remains safe, and proved that their system is convenient and efficient for its users, individuals and companies alike.
Trust the science.
It also helps to have authorities who are not tech-averse and are able to trust the science behind opportunities that digitisation can bring. For users to trust the leaders, the leaders must trust the experts, followed by having the political will and proper vision to get things done.
Bring in experts from the private sector.
e-Boks and other companies in Denmark cooperated with the government’s digitisation efforts. This holistic approach of involving experts and encouraging companies to play their part is key to the strategy’s success.
Simple acts help in green efforts.
Having companies that mirror the government’s strategy of digitising all transactions also make achieving green goals easier and feasible. e-Boks, for example, features digital signatures on its platform since it is already a standard in Denmark. By making similar adjustments, governments can help eliminate excessive reliance on paper.
Start within the government
Denmark initially digitised within the government decades ago. Recently, Ireland has started digitising its public sector. Using a Digital Postbox solution by e-Boks, the Irish government has started investing towards a more efficient and integrated public service. Aside from Ireland, e-Boks also provides a national digital post solution for the governments of Denmark, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden. Once a government successfully goes digital, with proper planning and infrastructure in place, everything else will follow.
Do you want to find out how your company can digitise? We at e-Boks, Denmark’s leading agency that provides solutions such as digital postboxes, are happy to help.
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