Digital Ambassadors - introduction to digital self-service (DK)

Project partners    : Citizens Service Centre, Vejen Kommune, Denmark

Contact data 
Simon Simonsen
Vejen Kommune
tlf. +45 79966103
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Key words:  digital service, competence, self-service, organizing, lean, public service, e-government, inclusion, education, channel swap

Main problems to be solved (analysis):   
The main target of the  Danish E-Government Strategy (see below) is for 80% of all transactions between citizens and municipalities to be digital in 2015. That raises the problem of how to prepare the citizens as well as the public organisations with all the procedures, systems and routines to handle this challenge. We have to prepare the change from personal services in the Citizens' Service Centre to use of digital self-service solutions on the internet for those who are able to do that.

The content of this pilot project was to introduce and to accelerate the use of digital self-service solutions from the Citizens' Service Centre in order to offer more flexible service to the citizens and to spend resources as effectively as possible.
Some key actions were identified:  
•    Implementation of self-service solutions into the official website of Vejen Kommune
•    Design of “navigation sheets” for a number of routines for citizens
•    Development of competencies and routines, internal staff
•    Development of competencies and habit, citizens

Vejen Kommune is classified as a rural municipality in Denmark. This pilot-project relates to the following facts from our WP3 research report that was finished in 2009:
•    Relatively long distance from homes in rural areas to the Citizens Service Centre (CSC)
•    The opening hours in the CSC can be a problem for working people who are commuting for jobs in other places
•    Fast broadband connections to most citizens mainly based on FTTH networks enable distance digital self-service via internet
•    Relatively low level of education often requires development of competencies
•    Relatively low rate of unemployment makes it difficult to recruit new personnel for CSC
•    A relatively large number of employees in the CSC will retire within a few years
•    Digital self-service solutions can be attractive to settlers, e.g. young people or higher educated people who appreciate flexibility and are aware of digital services
•    Low taxation base per capita in Vejen Kommune makes it necessary to be cost effective

Another important issue is that the cost of a digital self-service transaction is much lower than cost per transaction by  face to face, telephone, mail or email. That is possibly the main reason for the aim and decisions in the national E-Government Strategy.  

Policy frameworks to be dealt with/fitting in:
The Danish government, regions and municipalities developed a common national strategy, The Danish E-Government Strategy 2007-2010, which has been updated to a new version for 2010-2015. The strategy includes a number of goals and one main goal is that in 2015 at least 80% of all transactions in Denmark between citizens and municipalities will be digital.

Vejen Kommune’s local strategy for citizens’ service and our “channel strategy” are closely related to the national strategy. During the forthcoming years we will have a number of deadlines, e-days, to transfer citizens’ service transactions from personal service to digital self-service step by step. This action is co-ordinated on a national level as well as in the EU.

Local Government Denmark (LGDK), which is the interest group and member authority of all 98 Danish municipalities is developing and coordinating the concept of “Digital Ambassadors”, which has now been introduced in most Danish municipalities. Vejen Kommune was one of the first movers and has been very much involved in developing the concept.

Aim of the project:  
In order to accelerate the use of digital self-service solutions as an alternative to personal service, and to spend resources more effectively, we will:
•    Design at least 10 “navigation sheets” for routines in citizens service
•    Describe how to develop citizens’ competence in using digital self-service solutions
•    Make it possible for citizens to develop their competence by different methods and different channels
•    Develop routines and competence of  internal staff to prepare them to introduce citizens to digital self-service solutions
•    Change of habits for staff members: - help citizens to help themselves
•    More citizens must use self-service solutions if they can, so the main priority on a longer term is to assist only those who are not capable to help themselves

As concrete results we want to:
•    Reduce the number of personal service transactions by 10% per year in the Citizens Service Centre, except transactions for new passports and drivers licences.
•    Qualify a lot of “Digital Ambassadors” who can assist citizens and colleagues in using digital self-service solutions
•    Create many different events and activities to train and enable citizens of all ages to use digital self-service solutions e.g. like the yearly national Senior Surf Day

•    On the longer term as an outcome from the national strategy: - Reduction of costs and  number of employees in Citizens Service Centres in all Danish municipalities and in governmental service centres as well

•    Up to June 2012 almost 300 citizens, politicians and civil servants had been trained as Digital Ambassadors
•    More than 15 navigation sheets had been designed
•    The number of personal service transactions has been reduced. Some services have had a very large reduction and other services haven’t. It depends on design and how easy it is to use the specific digital self-service solution.
•     All staff members in the Citizens Service Centre are familiar with the digital self-service solutions, and as a common routine they now introduce digital self-service solutions to the citizens and assist them if necessary.

(Expected) outcome within the WP:
According to well-being and services as described in WP3 the introduction of digital self-service solutions will mean better public services for many citizens who are capable to handle them. At the same time public authorities can prioritise to assist only citizens who need that, e.g. elderly people can come to their usual activity centre or maybe to the library to get the assistance they need from a digital ambassador.
When a lot of digital self-service solutions have been developed and introduced it will be much easier for most citizens to help themselves any time they want because the “office” is always open (365-7-24). Transportation or distance from rural areas to Citizens Service Centre is not a problem anymore.

We will have an exchange of experience with partners in the Vital Rural Area project and give an introduction to some of the Danish digital self-service solutions which are available via Vejen Kommunes’ website:

(Expected) outcome for the region as a whole (impact of the project; effects may be  written in terms of the sustainability triangle = 3 P approach (people, planet, profit), i.e. benefits on the social, economical and physical part)

Digital self-service solutions are generally more sustainable for economic reasons (e.g. much lower cost per transaction) but also because citizens more often can serve themselves from home instead of driving to the Citizens Service Centre in Vejen.

•    At a theme-day at June 18, 2010, the staff in Vejen Kommune’s Citizens Service Centre were introduced to all existing self-service solutions (more solutions have been introduced since then). They were introduced to Vejen Kommune’s strategy for citizens’ service and the channel strategy (meaning use of digital self-service instead of personal service, service by telephone, mail or email communication if possible). At the end of the day the staff were prepared to be Digital Ambassadors.
•    Later a theme-day was arranged for the city council so our politicians could become Digital Ambassadors as well.
•    In the second half of 2010 the staff members from all departments in Vejen Kommune were introduced to the self-service solutions and the strategies beyond.
•    Citizens were invited to a number of theme-meetings and introduced to the self-service solutions.
•    Vejen Kommune was ready for the EDay3 on November 1, 2010 (Part of the Danish National Digital Strategy)
•    The first pilot project was finished at the end of 2010 and around 100 Digital Ambassadors were qualified.
•    A new plan was created for the continuation and further development of self-service solutions in Vejen Kommune and the most important goal was to qualify more Digital Ambassadors in 2011 and 2012

Only costs for the teachesr who have trained the digital ambassadors have been identified. A course for 8-12 trainees last 3 hours plus some time for teacher’s education, planning and preparation. Up to June 2012 we had more than 30 sessions.
In total we spent approximately 200 man hours: =  8000 €

Man hours have been registered and are co-financed by the Vital Rural Area project.
All other costs are handled by Vejen Kommune.

Implementation of the project (cf. CAA):

Which stakeholders were involved?
To begin with staff members from the Citizens Service Centre were involved. Later it was civil servants from other departments in the municipality and politicians from the City Council, and at last we spread to day care centres, libraries, high schools and other places where people meet and can be introduced to the digital services.  

How did you sustainably implement the project (locally, regionally)?
Over time the pilot project has become common routine.
Related projects:

CEMSDI: Civil-servants Empowerment for Multi-media Service Delivery ICT-enabled:
DISCOVER: Digital Inclusion Skills for Carers bringing Opportunities, Value and Excellence:
EGOV4U: E-Government for You

Applicability and transferability of this project:

Whenever changes or new routines are to be implemented you must focus on the competencies of all relevant stakeholders involved. This project is based on the fact that digital self-service solutions more or less will replace personal face to face services in public administration. This will happen everywhere sooner or later as use of the internet for different services and transactions becomes more and more common. Since services can also be handled in a more cost effective way by use of self-service solutions, this trend will continue in the coming years.

This project with Digital Ambassadors is an example of how to change habits and how to develop the competencies of different stakeholders in a community: - first of all the citizens, but also politicians, staff members etc. The term “ambassador” is signalling involvement, reliability and helpfulness, and this pilot project can be used as an example of how to introduce new services, new routines and changes of habit in a proper way and get acceptance from stakeholders because the new way of doing things seems reliable and reasonable.

The transformation from personal services to digital self- service solutions is sustainable for the different reasons mentioned above, and Digital Ambassadors are a useful tool in this process to ensure profit and benefits for planet and people.

Tools used in this pilot project:
•    Navigation sheets (low-level instructions for citizens) – “IKEA manual” for services
•    Standardized courses for education (three hour lesson for citizens and staff members) as formal requirement to new Digital Ambassadors
•    LEAN concept for reorganising the routines from ordinary services to digital services – business process re-engineering (brown paper, what now and what future process)

Last update of this format:  December 11th 2012