6 Governance and coordination for a more seamless public sector

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To ensure seamless services, increased data sharing and increased use of common IT solutions, collaboration and coordination across sectors and between the central and local government sectors must be strengthened. The aim of the Government is to facilitate a more systematic realisation of benefits from digitalisation.

Establishing seamless services in a sectorally managed public sector can be challenging. A sectorally organised central government clarifies responsibilities and is in many cases functional and efficient, but it can pose challenges in performing tasks across sectors and administrative levels. Municipalities and county authorities provide services to citizens, voluntary organisations and the business sector
in a number of areas. Therefore, the local government sector often needs cross-sectoral collaboration, both between specialist areas and with the central government in the digitalisation area, and central government solutions also cover local government needs. The local government sector finds that its digitalisation activities are challenged by the fact that the central government is sectorally organised and poorly coordinated. On the other hand, central government agencies finds that the local government sector can be poorly coordinated and insufficiently digitalised.

Where are we?

Cooperation between the central and local government sectors has been strengthened in recent years. IT policy and local government policy have been gathered under the same ministry specifically to facilitate better collaboration. Several coordination measures have also been implemented, such as the collaborative governance model for digitalisation in the local government sector and DigiFin, the financing scheme for local government IT projects.

DigiFin scheme

The DigiFin financing scheme was established so that the local government sector can collectively develop more common digital solutions. The scheme makes it possible to develop better citizen services faster and at a lower cost.

The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation has contributed NOK 125 million to the financing of this scheme. The premise is that the local government sector shall contribute at least as much. Most counties and municipalities have already paid their share to participate in the scheme based on their population. The Executive Board of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities has passed a resolution to contribute up to NOK 40 million.

Those who may receive support from the scheme are:

  • Municipalities
  • County authorities
  • Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities
  • Municipally-owned enterprises and intermunicipal companies may also receive support if the municipality or county authority participates in the application

Projects that have received support from the scheme to date are DigiHelse, DigiSos and MinSide.

In the local government sector, coordination in recent years has largely been based on the principle of volunteerism and cost sharing. Moreover, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities plays a role in coordinating digitalisation activities in the local government sector. A collaborative governance model for digitalisation has been established in the local government sector: the KommIT Council and its underlying committees. In addition, several regional digitalisation cooperation initiatives have been established, and more are under establishment. The KommIT structure is viewed in the context of the regional cooperation initiatives. This has proven to be effective, and has contributed greatly to mobilising the municipalities and county authorities. For example, in the course of only a few years almost all the municipalities have implemented the SvarUt (ReplyOut) service for the digital distribution of mail. Support for the voluntary financing scheme DigiFin for joint local government projects – the costs of which are shared among the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, municipalities and county authorities – has grown so much in the course of a year that over 90 per cent of citizens in Norway live in a DigiFin municipality. The county authorities have also established cooperation on several digitalisation initiatives.

Where are we going?

The key instruments for managing and coordinating digitalisation in the central government are organisation, agency governance and corporate governance, regulations and financing. However, no mechanisms are in place to monitor compliance with common instructions, such as the Digitalisation Circular, by central government agencies. The reasons for this should therefore be investigated, and it should be assessed how compliance can be monitored appropriately. Moreover, when a service involves multiple agencies and administrative levels, the challenge is that responsibility for costs and benefits may lie in different places.

Realising benefits is a challenging task, and requires structured and continuous monitoring throughout the digitalisation initiative. Active and structured work to identify opportunities for benefits is something that most government agencies do well. The challenge lies in monitoring benefits realisation activities so that government agencies can realise the expected benefits. It is important that work in this area be strengthened and that priority be given to initiatives and measures offering the greatest benefit or potential benefit.

Realising benefits is also challenging when the digital transformation entails innovation and the use of methods where one is not necessarily familiar with the solution in the initial phase of the project, but where one is looking for benefits along the way. There is therefore a need to strengthen expertise in and guidance on how to realise benefits in general, and in innovation and digital transformation in particular. The Co-financing Mechanism has stipulated clear requirements for benefits realisation activities in connection with applications for project support. This is a good example of guidelines on which benefits realisation activities can be based, and consideration should be given to expanding it to apply to digitalisation initiatives in general. A methodology for more systematic realisation of benefits from digitalisation is also needed, especially in connection with the common infrastructure.

Norwegian State Project Model

The Government has decided to lower the threshold value for large-scale digitalisation projects in the Norwegian State Project Model (Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities scheme) with effect from September 2019. A guide is being prepared that will highlight conditions specific to the appraisal and quality assurance of large-scale digitalisation projects. A new threshold value and guide will help improve the basis for proper prioritisation and successful completion of large-scale digitalisation projects.

There is a need for a uniform policy and measures that support and drive digitalisation across the public sector. Financing mechanisms and a methodology that make it easier for agencies to cooperate on cross-sectoral initiatives must be further developed. To monitor digitalisation initiatives across the public sector and stimulate a more strategic approach to digitalisation in each sector, it is important that the ministries assign a strategic function with responsibility for coordinating digitalisation. This is recommended by the OECD, among others, and several countries have already implemented such functions. Developing principles for cost sharing for cross-sectoral digital services should also be considered.

SKATE plays an important role as a strategic cooperation council in the digitalisation area. SKATE consists of directors from nine central government agencies and two senior representatives from the local government sector who shall contribute to a better coordinated digitalisation of the public sector. However, SKATE can potentially play a more strategic role than today in promoting cross-sectoral digitalisation. It may also be relevant to consider whether supplemental strategic arenas are needed to support realisation of seamless services across sectors and administrative levels.

Although the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities is involved in a growing number of strategic discussions, collaboration with central government agencies remains unsystematic, fragmented and poorly coordinated. The extent to which central government agencies involve the local government sector in digitalisation projects varies, and little emphasis is placed on the economic consequences and benefits for the local government sector.

Coordination of digitalisation activities in municipalities, county authorities and central government agencies in the time ahead shall lay the foundation for developing seamless services for citizens, voluntary organisations and the business sector. To achieve this, the central and local government sectors must cooperate in new and more binding ways. This is in line with the recommendations of the Office of the Auditor General. Cooperation models for digitalisation activities in the public sector that ensure coordination and collaboration across and within the sectors and administrative levels should therefore be developed. The model should give the local government sector sufficient influence in national digitalisation activities, and is therefore also referred to as collaborative governance, without changing the fundamental principles for governance and the distribution of responsibilities in public administration.

The following principles shall form the basis for such a model:

  • Equality and influence: The governance model must contribute to giving the parties genuine joint consultation. Representation on boards and committees in which collaborative governance takes place must lay the foundation for equal and balanced participation and influence.
  • Representativeness: The local government sector’s representatives on central government boards and committees must be appointed and participate on behalf of the entire sector. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities appoints the representatives for the local government sector. Correspondingly, central government agencies will appoint their own representatives on committees and boards.
  • Early involvement: The committees and boards on which collaborative governance takes place must be involved as early as possible in relevant national matters that affect their mandate or area of responsibility.

Experience from cooperation between the central government and local government sectors in the e-health area can form the basis for good cooperation models. It is also necessary to establish an arena in which cross-sectoral problems and priorities in general can be discussed. Such an arena should be formed at a political level with representatives from both the local and the central government sectors, such as in the consultation mechanism, and be supported by appropriate arenas at the administrative level. The development of models for cost sharing in joint digitalisation initiatives should be anchored in this cooperation.

Cooperation between the central and local government sectors in the e-health area

Cooperation between the local government sector and central government on digitalisation efforts has been enhanced in recent years, including in the health and care sector through the establishment of the National Board for E-health and its underlying specialist and prioritisation committees. There is still a need for more and better coordination and collaboration between the health and care services in the central and local government sectors. An important example is the need for better access to patient information. The long-term vision is «one citizen – one record».

The health platform in the Central Norway Regional Health Authority has now completed procurement of a solution for a common patient record for use by hospitals, municipalities and general practitioners. This is the first time that a common solution has been established for the municipal and specialist health services, general practitioners and contract specialists. The other health regions in the specialist health service are further developing and coordinating their solutions. The Norwegian Directorate of eHealth has also been commissioned to undertake a pilot project aimed at establishing a national solution for collaboration and a common municipal patient record for the municipal health and care services outside the Central Norway Regional Health Authority. The initiative will involve municipalities, general practitioners and the specialist health service, and will require municipalities to coordinate on key issues, such as governance and organisation.

The Government will:

  • Consider how the mandate for SKATE can be reinforced and further developed
  • Prepare a guide for the ministries on strategic governance of digitalisation
  • Consider further development of offers of competence building, transfer of experience and assistance in benefits realisation activities in the digitalisation area in the ministries
  • Assess the need for cost-sharing principles for new digitalisation initiatives
  • In cooperation with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, prepare guidelines with common principles for when and how the local government sector shall be involved in central government decisions that concern digitalisation and that affect the local government sector
  • Establish arenas within the consultation mechanism to monitor digitalisation initiatives affecting the local government sector, including initiatives in the digital strategy
  • Ensure that the model for stronger and more systematic cooperation and coordination between the central and local government sectors (collaborative governance model) be established initially for the areas with the greatest degree of collaboration, such as the sectors responsible for health and care, childhood, and education