Public administrations across Europe have been investing in digital public services for some time now. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, this transition has taken on a new sense of urgency. “COVID-19 is forcing both government institutions and citizens to quickly rethink the delivery of public services,” says Leire Orue-Echevarria, coordinator of the EU-funded CITADEL (Empowering Citizens to TrAnsform European PubLic Administrations) project. “Most major public service providers have either closed or significantly limited client service centres and are encouraging the use of digital public services instead.” CITADEL’s suite of methods and tools are particularly well-suited to help with this transition. “All of our tools are designed to provide public administrations with practical solutions for improving their digital services,” adds Orue-Echevarria. All of the project’s solutions are freely available via the CITADEL website and the project’s GitLab public repository.
From evaluation to co-creation and implementation
At the heart of the CITADEL suite is DIGIMAT, an innovative tool for evaluating the overall maturity level of a government’s digital services. “This evaluation is the first step in leveraging the CITADEL toolbox,” explains Orue-Echevarria. “Based on the evaluation of available services, CITADEL can help public administrators personalise citizen services, create user-friendly experiences, implement relevant KPIs, and comply with applicable rules and regulations.” For example, while CITADEL’s co-creation methodology provides public administrations with step-by-step guidance through the entire co-creation process, the co-creation tool customises the method for a given service or context. It also supports the public administration in each step of the process, providing recommendations as to which tool, technique or method to use. Once implemented, the innovation platform comes into play, providing citizens with the means to generate, vote on and select ideas for improving a certain service.
Defining public services for a post-pandemic world
The CITADEL suite of services is currently being used by several European public administrations. For example, in Latvia, VARAM, the organisation responsible for the delivery of public services at the national level, has integrated CITADEL’s solutions into its everyday processes and planning. Using CITADEL’s co-creation methodology, the organisation says it has seen a steady increase in available digital public services. “Across Latvia, more and more public services are being made available digitally,” remarks Inese Viktorija Grospine, CITADEL project director at VARAM. “This is a direct result of our participation in the project.” When COVID-19 struck, many municipalities immediately shut down their public services centres. Luckily, thanks in part to its work with CITADEL, Latvia was ready. “Our ability to offer digital services not only allowed us to keep serving the public, but, more importantly, allowed us to reduce face-to-face contact, enforce social distancing and help save lives,” adds Grospine. Even with lockdowns generally easing across Europe, many municipalities have opted to continue offering most of their services digitally. “As many institutions continue to prefer digital service delivery over physical services, the CITADEL suite of solutions will play a big role in defining public services in a post-pandemic world,” concludes Orue-Echevarria.
CITADEL, public administrations, digital public services, COVID-19, DIGIMAT