The Estonian state offers families all different types of family benefits that new parents had to apply for. We found that such an important benefit should not be claimed like that. We built an IT system that allows us to offer benefits to families in a proactive way. Ou innovation is as simple as that - "congratulations on having a baby, here are your benefits!" Because the baby requires attention, love and of corse time, why waste it on communicating with the state.
The World is changed by our example, not by our opinion.
And oh boy how many opinions we got, when in 2016 we started sharing an ideas about seamless or automatic services in public sector. And now, 2019 we can share our experience by launching first proactive public service in Estonia and not only Estonia, but in social protection, which is always known for least fortunate one. As I am sure you have noticed.
But let's start from the beginning.
It all started with an idea - what if we change the way we work here in social insurance board?! We are like a wallet, people who need our help come to us and ask for help. But we are also an E-stonia, known for making things online. So we have that e-stonia and we have people applying for benefits. These two things don't add up, don't you think? Being all IT and still asking people to make the first move.
We looked the numbers and saw that 97% of parents apply for family benefits. Applying is not made easier by the fact that we have all these different types of benefits - there is something for the fist child, then there is something for a second or a third one. Big families, small families, health insurance, other state support, parental salary for whoever (mom or dad) stays home with the new kid. So, as you imagine, all these 97% of parents came to us and asked what the state has to offer them. And then we looked, calculated, did some adding up and multiplications and granted the benefits. So basically - we did how the state is used to work - person comes up to us and then we do our job.
It took us many years dreaming about making the first step. You know, when you are at the dance and everybody is dancing and you see a new person enter the dance floor and you just stare in the ceiling and hope this new person comes and asks you to dance. Because state social insurance boards are not as bold - the ideology is not that bold. We are used to work like that - not making the first step is familiar in many-many countries and in national social system.
So what we did, what our innovation was - we made the decision that we are the ones who make the fist step.
We built an IT-system, that gathers all the informations we need to make parents a e-offer for family benefits. And from October 14th this year, families doen't have to apply for family benefits, because this dream of making the bold first step came to reality.
How it works?
It works easy.
Every night our systems asks Estonian National Population Register if there are any new births registered. If the answer is yes, then we gat the kid's name and of course the parents names also.
With parents names our system can ask Tax and Customs Board about the income and working situation of these parents. Then our system asks from many many different registers information, so it can generate this family benefit offer.
We asked informations from these registers before also, just not from Monday to Friday form 9 to 5 anymore but now by our system overnight and every night.
If our system collects allt his information we need to make an offer, it send out an e-mail to these parents with a congratiolation. This is the part where we needed the kid’s name. Wen we know the little kiddo’s name, then we can congratulate the parents on giving birth to a small Kristi or Lily or Martin. We added some flower and balloon emoticons also to this offer, because new baby is always a happy event.
(...And when it is not a happy event and something happens, then our system automatically removes the overwhelming modern congratulation)
So, the kid is born, our systems collects all the information and generates an offer for family benefits and sends out a congratulation e-mail asking people to log in to our self-servise portal, where the offer safetly is. In the portal, these parents can confirm the offer, which is prefilles. But there are places where this parent can change something for his or her opionion. For example a bank account number of “leave this benefit for other parent” and so on.
By logging in to our self service portal, this person does not have to sign anything - by logging in we know who the user is and count that as a signature if everyting in confirbed by the user. Easy. But this stemp is important for parents - to see everything on screen and compare the benefits with other parent - so they can make a best decision for their family. And that is important - state can make the first move but can’t know what is best for the family - that is knowladge is only known by these families.
Our change was hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.
Totally worth it.
And yes - we where inspired by private sector, as they lead how people want to use services and consume information. And how bold they are acknowledging what people want and need. And we thought - if private sector can be that bold, why can't we?
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The innovation lies in 100% proactive service - no paper, no applications. State makes to first step, not the person.
Our idea is, that if a person has a right for some benefit, we design our services so we can offer them application freely.
As from 2019 people in Estonia don't have to apply for family benefits, we offer them pro-actively.
Usually social system doesn't work like that, usually it's not that bolt, but our system is.
What is the current status of your innovation?
We are live from 14th of October 2019.
From that day people of Estonia does not have to apply for family benefits, it is 100% pro-active.
But, innovation can't be stopped, so we are designing other social services like that also - seamless ass possible.
Collaborations & Partnerships
When we started designing this service, we had interviews with parents, citizens, social workers.
We did included government officials also, but we always focused on a person and what his or hers needs are, never thought what government officials need, because they should also always think about the citizens, so we counted this sector as a middle man, what we can cut out.
Of course we included the best designers, front-end developers, programmers and IT-analytics who made it happen!
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Mostly it affect citizens, because for them the service went from hard to orientate to super easy.
For us (government officials) it changed everything we do - we need less effort to work with applications and different systems and papers and we can focus on a person.
People should work with people, not with paper.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
It is always good to talk about results in numbers.
Before our new service, it took about 2 hours of work to process one application. It took government workers time and citizen's time.
Now it takes about about 30 seconds for a person to get get that benefit. It could be even faster, but it takes some second to log in. :)
System does everything automatically.
If we gathered feedback to our new service, then we asked people to give us a grade from 0 to 10, as then is the best. The average result vas 9,8 and we all thought that maybe we made a mistake in a feedback form. When someone gave us "only a 5 points" are laughed because we knew - we didnt make a mistake on a feedback form and users can give us lower points that 10, 9 or 8. :)
When we went live, very first e-offer for family benefits was conformed by a person so fast we also thought that was a system malfunction. :)
Sometimes it is hard to make something too easy, even the creators coul't belive the result.
Challenges and Failures
We had many challenges, but mostly in the beginning.
For example our project timeline:
2015-2017 Dreaming and just sharing this idea, feeling like a naive fool.
2017 Starting with the project. This part is messy to be honest. We don't know how it happened, but at that point we or our partners didn't know what we need or want and how to make that happen. Everybody on the project cries and panics.
2018 "Oh, now we know, sorry about the mis misunderstanding"
2019 January - continuing the super hard work with the best and motivated team ever
2019 October - LIVE
*everybody does a micdrop*
*everybody picks up mics, because we need more services like this*
Conditions for Success
We just need awesome and motivated people who want to continue to change the system.
Everything else is just a matter of time or talk.
We already now see, that this idea actually catches up pretty fast and we are more than happy to share our experience.
People. It is all about the people. You cant succeed without awesome people.