History of Danish municipal government services
Traditionally, the formal interaction between citizens and government has been thought of in terms of one citizen to one service. In 2003 a new citizen to this municipality had to visit 3-4 different physical municipal offices. These visits were required to receive the services needed to become a citizen within the municipal system, and thus qualify for a salary or social benefits. The citizen, in other words, created the connection between municipal services.
For many years the Danish society has been assigning unique identifiers to every citizen at birth. Legislation strongly restrains governmental institutions’ cross-use of information, and in practice the IT systems are separate. Accordingly, there is no single point in the public administration where somebody or a certain instance “knows everything about me”.
The trend in government organization has for a few years gone towards “personalized service,” and “one-stop-shopping”. The focal point of these tendencies has been the idea of the citizen gaining easier access to the whole spectrum of governmental services from one physical location or through one website. Borger.dk is a Danish example of such a website. Such a “personalized service” is challenged when services pertain, not to one, but to several citizens.
An example of this is parental leave. Historically the caring of a newborn baby was expected to be a woman’s job. Today, however, this job is to a larger and larger extent shared between the parents. Consequently, today, the municipality needs to handle parental leave as a service, which involves several citizens–the mother, the father and the child. These primary stakeholders are surrounded by a web of additional stakeholders consisting of employers, other municipal offices, unions and regulations, relatives and friends of the expecting parents, and not least the circles of (expecting) mothers, organized by the visiting nurse into what is called Mothers’ groups. These groups proved to be an important source of information among many parents, and as such they were of interest to our design process.