By Steven McGinty
Continuing my series on digital government best practice, I will be looking at the success of Norway and what they hope to achieve through their Digital Agenda for Norway (DAN) strategy.
Norway is already a leader in “digital government”, ranking second only behind Singapore in a study carried out by Accenture on implementation progress and citizen satisfaction. The Norwegian State Secretary, Paul Chaffey, suggests that this success has been built on a foundation of a population of tech savvy Norwegians, with a history of being at the forefront of cutting edge technology.
For instance, in 1973 Norway became the first country to connect to the US’ ARPANET, which was the military predecessor to the Internet. And more recently, maritime and off-shore technology developments in Norway have become of global importance. In particular, the use of Big Data modelling plays a significant role in finding new oil fields.
Egovernment policy development
In 2000, the government presented the eNorway action plan, a set of ICT initiatives designed to support the development of the ‘knowledge society’ and improve the lives of the people of Norway. The plan consisted of descriptions of the individual ICT initiatives of ministries, as well as common frameworks to support joint initiatives.
This soon evolved into eNorway 2005, which had the main goal of developing a set of principles for ICT initiatives. From this, the government set out three primary targets for its ICT policy:
- Creating value in industry;
- Efficiency and quality in the public sector;
- Involvement and identity.
Then, the government introduced eNorway2009, a strategy that would take Norway a ‘digital leap’ forward. It argued that the public sector had to be viewed as one unit, if digital progress was to be made. Therefore, the new strategy focused on the use of multi-disciplinary initiatives and projects. There was also a recognition of the need for cooperation between all sectors and levels of the public sector, as well as the private sector.
In 2012, the government also published a report on the digitisation of the public sector. It outlined the government’s key policy objectives for their digitisation programme – keeping Norway at the forefront internationally in terms of providing digital public services to its citizens
A major development has been the implementation of the hub, ID-Porten, which verifies citizens via electronic IDs (eID). It allows citizens to securely login to government digital services via a single login portal. There is also a common technical platform (ID Gateway), which allows citizens to login to services using four different eIDs: MiniID; BankID; Buypass; and Comfides.
BankID, Buypass, and Comfides all provide access to a high level of security (level 4). These IDs are required when accessing personal data and only issued to individuals who appear in person. However, MiniID provides only a medium-high security level (level 3) and pins codes can be sent via mail or through SMS. This is the most common eID (used by almost 2.7 million citizens) and provides access to digital services provided by the tax services and the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.
In 2003, Altinn was launched to provide a single web portal for public reporting. This was driven by the amount of time Norwegian businesses were spending on statutory reporting. To resolve this problem, the three large public agencies in Norway – the Norwegian Tax Administration, Statistics Norway and the Bronnoysund Register Centre – started Altinn.
However, the project has now moved beyond that of public reporting. Now it’s responsible for providing an array of electronic forms (over 700) and digital services, as well as providing information for businesses.
The most used service by citizens is the completion of tax returns online. In 2009, more than 440,000 businesses chose to do their statutory reporting through Altinn.
This is the main information portal for the Norwegian government. It has a user friendly design and in many ways is similar to the UK Government’s website GOV.UK.
Digital Agenda for Norway (DAN)
In 2013, the Norwegian government published the white paper on the Digital Agenda for Norway (DAN). The strategy is linked to the Digital Agenda for Europe, and is also related to the Europe 2020 strategy.
The DAN explains that the government’s primary goal is that:
“Norwegian society take full advantage of the value creation and innovation opportunities that ICT and the internet offer.”
This has been the philosophy from the early stages of Norway’s digital development.
The DAN highlights that greater digitisation is inevitable but notes that it will be important to identify areas with the greatest potential for development.
In terms of the public sector, the DAN identifies a number of areas for development:
- Public sector information – increasing the accessibility and reuse of public sector information.
- Digital services for citizens – improving digital registration for property rights and creating a paperless justice sector.
- Commons technical solutions – the development of digital mailboxes for citizens and businesses, the use of digital document exchange, and the creation of common registers to support the public sector.
- Organising and coordinating for more efficient use of resources.
- Adapting laws and regulations to a digital public sector – requiring digital communication to be the standard method of communication for the public sector.
Looking to the future?
Norway has earned their reputation as a ‘digital leader’. Over the years, the government has set out a series of clear policies to support the transition to the digital age. Although not perfect, significant improvements have been made. For instance, 93% of Norwegian households now have access to the internet; this figure was only 55% in 2003.
The new DAN presents Norway with an opportunity to continue the success of recent policy initiatives. And on recent evidence, this is a clear possibility.
However, with other countries looking to improve their performance in digital government, it will be interesting to see if they will overtake Norway in international comparisons or if Norway’s sustained focus will pay off and enable them to be the world’s number one in terms of using digital services to increase citizen engagement and improve service delivery.
Enjoy this article? Read our other recent blogs on digital government:
- e-Estonia: leading the way on digital government
- The Government Digital Service: successes, turmoil, and the focus for the future
- Digital transformation: rethinking the plumbing of government
- The Carnegie Trust and the Wheatley Group: showing us how we can tackle digital exclusion
Follow us on Twitter to see what developments in public and social policy are interesting our research team.
IDOX specialises in election services, with Idox Elections offering end-to-end solutions for electoral management systems. Idox was awarded a number of contracts to support the Norwegian municipal and county elections held in September 2015. This follows Idox’s success in delivering similar election services during the Norwegian General Election of 2013.