White Paper

Proactive public services: The new standard for digital governments

Proactive public services are part of a wider transformation towards proactive government that delivers users public services without waiting for formal requests. It implies a capacity to anticipate societal and economic developments, as well as users’ needs, by capturing real-time information and applying it to re-design services.

In brief

Following the first wave of public sector digitization that focused on making services accessible online, governments are seeking to increasingly automate public services, so that they require as little interaction from users and service providers as possible. Proactive public services represent the pinnacle of this new wave of digital public services. In their most sophisticated form, these digital public services can be designed entirely without user interaction, offering unparalleled frictionless access to public services.
    • This white paper aims to help those who wish to understand, and potentially develop, proactive public services.

    • It discusses the concept of proactive public services as the next phase of digitization in the public sector. 

    • The paper showcases examples from Austria, Estonia, and New Zealand, where proactive public services of differing levels of sophistication have been developed, implemented, and trialed for several years.

    • The paper presents new insights and lessons learned, identifies the core building blocks for developing proactive public services, and concludes by offering recommendations on how to successfully transition to a more proactive public sector.

Proactive public services aim to automate public services to minimize user and service provider interaction, providing frictionless access to government services. This approach not only enhances user-friendliness but also has the potential to increase policy effectiveness and promote social equity.

Wide-scale introduction of proactive public services may therefore even contribute to a more socially just and equitable society. Implementing proactive public services at scale requires organizational capabilities, stakeholder management, and evaluating each public service’s potential for proactive delivery. Governments need to raise awareness, build necessary foundations, and develop capabilities to successfully implement proactive public services.

Traditional approaches to transformation are failing in uncertain and volatile environments. Meanwhile, adaptability, speed to market, and diverse thinking are becoming ever more critical to success. 

This includes a supportive regulatory environment that enables the inter-agency exchange of personal data, a requirement to implement many advanced proactive public services. A high level of trust in the public sector is also essential to create a desire to experiment with and transition to this mode of digital public services and ensure continuous support for it.

Solid technical foundation

  • Digital identity ecosystem: A functioning digital identity ecosystem to allow users to securely access proactive public services that require interaction.

  • Up-to-date data: Accurate, up-to-date data to provide the service reliably and efficiently to as many eligible users as possible
  • Secure data exchange: The ability to exchange personal data securely and efficiently within all areas of a public administration, and ideally the health and private sectors.
  • Electronic messaging: Secure and legally binding electronic messaging between the public sector, citizens, and businesses.

Implementing proactive public services will often drastically increase the complexity of stakeholder management as it often requires cooperation between several government agencies. These foundational factors combined with the individual characteristics of each public service determine whether a public service can be re-designed as a proactive public service, and how far its delivery can be automated.


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