Social Security Information System(SSIS)
Korea Health and Welfare Information Service

The Problem

Before the establishment of the social security information system, Korea faced a number of obstacles to delivering welfare benefits. Each of the 16 ministries was individually operating some 293 services for social welfare benefit, causing many problems in the effectiveness and efficiency of its welfare delivery system.

Above all, the country’s welfare system did not operate in a beneficiary-oriented way. In the past, 293 types of welfare benefits were inconsistently executed, making it hard for people to know which type of welfare benefits were available for them. In addition, application procedures used to be complicated, as people had to visit the related agency to apply for the welfare benefit, preparing more than 37 categories of documents as evidence of their qualifications. Such a service-based application system led to welfare blind spots where people who were in need of welfare benefits did not always receive them.

Second, individualized execution of welfare benefits resulted in an inefficiency in the administrative process. In Korea, the decision on welfare enrollment depends on income and assets tests for most of the welfare benefits. Each executing ministry has separately conducted the above-described means test, leading to a waste of administrative resources. The absence of information sharing across the ministries resulted in the time-consuming nature of welfare service provision. It used to take an average of 60 days from the time of application to reach the payment of the benefits. This lengthy process made it hard to assist qualified applicants in time.

Third, each beneficiary's history of receiving welfare benefits was not managed on the basis of their individual case – instead, each ministry managed their beneficiaries separately, resulting in an overlapping provision of welfare benefits from multiple ministries for the same beneficiary. Each of the 16 ministries had designed its own welfare benefit, so, one beneficiary could get similar welfare benefits from several government offices, and consequently, it cause waste of the national coffers.
For example, eight housing remodeling services were managed by six ministries, each service executed separately on a city, county, and district basis, resulting in a single beneficiary benefiting from several welfare services from different ministries and from the local government. In this way, the leakage of social welfare funds became a serious social issue.

Finally, there was no sharing of information across the ministries, making it hard to secure accurate screening and selection of beneficiaries. Therefore, public officials were limited in trying to accurately select qualified beneficiaries using only the 15 categories of administrative data available to each local government and documents submitted by applicants. Consequently, welfare benefits were sometimes paid to unqualified persons or some beneficiaries received more funds than they were entitled to benefits. This also led to waste within the system and leakage of welfare expenditures.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The Korean government has established the social security information system in several phases, beginning in 2009. It turns out that the new information system is instrumental in boosting conveniences for beneficiaries and in improving the level of efficiency and transparency in providing welfare benefit services for public officials.

First, the new design of welfare benefit is beneficiary-oriented, built and managed as an individualized database of the 14 million beneficiaries of welfare services. Before the establishment of the system, it was hard for frontline welfare officials to know which type of benefit was available for each applicant. After its establishment, they can find the appropriate benefits from the 293 available across 16 ministries. In addition, applicants can apply for multiple welfare benefits through a one-time application without preparing various evidentiary documents. They can also visit a portal website to check online references and to apply for welfare benefits online.

Second, welfare administrative work has been streamlined, placing 293 types of welfare services under the social security information system that covers the entire application procedures. Before the system took effect, the application process for receiving benefits was time consuming with more than 60 days on average. The system has shortened this to 12.8 days on average. For example, approval of rental housing services used to take 20 days, but it now takes 3 days or less to process the work.

Third, the system has enhanced the accuracy of verification of recipients’ qualifications. Before the system took effect, 15 categories of public data were used as a basis for verifying the qualification. In 2012, 442 categories of public data from 37 ministries and public agencies have been connected and are available for reference by public officials. Therefore, the system has improved access to get accurate information about the recipients’ living conditions, enabling officials to stop welfare benefits or readjust the amount of welfare benefits. Consequently, although it cost 58 million dollars to establish and operate the information system, the system has saved about 763 million dollars of welfare budget in the fiscal year 2011.

Fourth, the legal and institutional basis has been laid out to help fulfill the purposes of establishing the information system. Through the combination of diverse welfare benefits into one management system, it has become possible to streamline the previously complicated diversity of welfare benefits into a single beneficiary-oriented service. It is a standardized basis for operating welfare benefits, including qualification of beneficiaries, streamlining the welfare system.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
By the initiative of President Lee Myung Bak, the social security information system was implemented in Korea. During the December 2007 presidential election campaign, then presidential candidate Lee Myung Bak pledged to “establish an integrated network of welfare information in order to make an efficient welfare delivery structure.” After his inauguration, President Lee said in March 2008 that the “welfare budget has increased, but its delivery system remains almost ancient,” directing the government “to improve the welfare delivery system,” leading to the decision to change that system. First, this was intended to increase efficiency in procedures and methods by which the related government offices and local government welfare officials operated. Second, the reform was intended to maximize the use of matching data provided by the government, public agencies, and financial institutions. Third, the reform was to establish an information system aimed at achieving and supporting these changes.

In April 2008, a task force was organized to reshuffle the social welfare delivery structure, led by the Presidential Blue House Office and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, with participation of related ministries and public and private institutions.

In April 2009, the Social Welfare Project Act was revised to prepare a legal basis for establishing and operating the social security information system. The new law served as a basis for the cross -government cooperation of 37 ministries and public agencies, through which each could obtain and use 442 categories of public documents owned by these ministries and agencies, including the Labor Ministry, the Supreme Court of Korea, and the National Tax Service. The system was constructed between December 2008 and January 2010, when the information system began running for the benefit of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Korea Health and Welfare Information Service (KHWIS) was established in December 2009 as the exclusive agency operating the social security information system.
Since 2010, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and KHWIS have led efforts to streamline and integrate information from related institutions, leading system development projects. The Prime Minister’s Office, which stands above these ministries, coordinates diverse issues and inter-ministerial differences of opinion that may arise when managing welfare benefits.

Following this development process, the information system now operates to provide 10.4 billion dollars of welfare benefits a year. At the same time, it creates information about qualifications of diverse social service beneficiaries and recipient history, providing 54 types of information to 18 governmental offices and public agencies. As it now stands, about 40,000 government officials in charge of social welfare at local governments are using the information system in handling their welfare work.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The social security information infrastructure was established in order to provide beneficiary-oriented and customized welfare services. The goals of the system are defined as enhancing efficiency of welfare administration by local government, improving the recipients' satisfaction level of welfare, and delivering welfare service effectively.
To establish the social security information system, strategies have been executed that achieve cooperative governance, integration and connection of public information, and standardization of the welfare system.

First among these were the execution strategies for inter-ministerial cooperation. Cooperative governance is essential to connecting the works and functions of 293 welfare services run by 16 ministries. The system-to-system connection among ministries was a particularly necessary change as each ministry had operated its own system previously. In addition, it was necessary to standardize work processes and connect various benefits. Therefore, the task force for welfare information integration and management was constantly carrying out consultations to achieve efficient connection of each ministry system’s information.

Second, the execution strategies for integration and connection of public data needed to be addressed. In order to enhance data credibility and integration, as well as to prevent data overlapping, omission, or inadequacy, the information system was managed as an integrated database through integration and connection of each ministry’s information.

Third, the execution strategy for standardizing welfare system arose. The services provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare were central to initiating execution of standardized regulations regarding family type, questions for the means test, survey criteria, etc. In 2012, other ministries introduced standard procedures for their welfare programs.

Additionally, there were execution strategies for education and publicity. In order for the newly established system to be effectively used on the frontlines in the workplace, user education was implemented between January and August 2010, periodically producing and distributing educational videos for work guidelines and users’ manuals. Publicity activities were also conducted, targeting the general population.

Along with these strategies, the information technology (IT) infrastructure was continually improved in parallel with legal and institutional system updates to match their progress, leading to the successful establishment of today’s social security information system.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
At the direction of the president in March 2008, the Ministry of Health and Welfare sought consensus about the establishment of the social security information system. In April 2009, the National Assembly prepared a legal basis for and institutions related to the system, including the Social Welfare Project Act, whose aim was to restructure the social welfare delivery structure. These activities led to the establishment of the first-stage social security information system in January 2010, used largely for welfare benefits at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

In order to expand the service across ministries, the national policy coordination committee decided to implement a combined source of welfare information to be shared across ministries. The government began supporting each ministry’s execution of the project in various ways (e.g., related ministries holding a workshop in July). In September 2011, the government enacted the Prime Minister’s Order, enabling the welfare information integration task force to be organized and begin operations, establishing a cooperative structure with the related institutions. After that, the second-phase social security information system was established, targeting the government’s welfare services across ministries.

The social security information system was necessary to be developed of establishing an integrated database, establishing a counseling program for applicants or beneficiaries, preparing a legal and institutional basis, and providing educational and publicity activities for the use of public data.

First, to establish an integrated database, data about 198 services at 11 ministries was connected with the social security information system during the period from early 2010 to August 2012. In May 2012, the standard integration program was installed on a system-to-system basis for each ministry, followed by testing for information integration that was carried out until July 2012. The program was installed in this manner until August 2012 in order to correct overlapping services and to avoid unqualified beneficiaries from the social welfare information system. After that, the system was connected with 95 additional welfare services in five ministries.

Second, for the convenience of providing counseling services to people, a civilian counseling program was launched in May 2012, and a website was opened at to serve as a new major information channel.

Third, a legal basis was laid out to enable a common use of public information across the government. The 2009 revision of the Social Welfare Project Act and the 2011 amendment of the Framework Act on Social Security in particular have provided the legal grounds for the cross-ministerial use of public data. The 2012 revision of the enforcement ordinance for the Social Welfare Project Act contained necessary updates.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacles encountered in the process of establishing the social security information system included issues about the legal grounds, privacy protection, each ministry’s attitudes of support, and the local civil servants’ adaptation period to the new system.

First, the legal issue regarding the common use of the welfare information across the ministries was raised. Legal grounds gather necessary information from welfare beneficiaries existed under the incumbent social welfare act. Legal grounds were found to be weak, however, to execute the common use of welfare information across ministries. Therefore, the Framework Act on Social Security was revised to solve the legal basis problem and the Act amended 18 rules and regulations regarding the social security information system. Under the revised act’s Article 37, all ministries are allowed to share welfare information in common when they carry out their respective welfare benefits.

Second, issues arose under the privacy act. Room existed for problem to occur in regard to privacy protection and responsibility when the information system was put to common use by all ministries following the convergence of whole ministries’ welfare project information into the ‘social security information system.’ To solve this problem, 2 regulation enforcements and 39 guidelines regarding the privacy protection act were revised to respond to this institutional need. Simultaneously, the collection of personal information was minimized and the personal information protection system was installed.

Third, an issue came to light with the passive attitude that each ministry showed. Ministry-to-ministry cooperation was essential to compiling the welfare system data in order to connect each ministry’s welfare system data with the social security information system. This process took a lot of time and human resources, drawing a passive reaction from each ministry. To solve the problem, a separate task force under the Prime Minister’s Office was created, whose mission was to compile the data. It conducted a regular monitoring of this activity once a month. This way, it constantly checked progress towards the task outcome and cooperated with the ministries.

The fourth obstacle was the extra workload for local government officials, as the social security information system resulted in changes to the method by which they handled administrative works. Once the system was introduced, government officials were assigned to do new work and to fill new roles, creating a feeling of burden and highlighting their lack of adaptability into the new system. In order to solve this problem as the new system was introduced and expanded, the central government and KHWIS carried out publicity and education activities continually to boost public awareness about the usefulness of the social security information system, while it also provided incentives and compensation (e.g., awarding ‘excellent users’ recognition). IT specialists and experts in KHWIS maintained queries, complaints and service requests raised by local government officials.

KHWIS played an active role in pushing for new policies, strategies and programs to develop the system. Therefore, KHWIS made a significant contribution to the successful settlement and operation of the social security information system not only through its operation of the system and user education but also its participation and IT professional support for entire process of establishing and expanding the system.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
So far, a total of 58 million dollars has been spent to establish the social security information system. This breaks down into 25.6 million dollars spent installing the first-phase system during the 2009-2010 period, 9.9 million dollars for human resources, and 10.3 million dollars for maintenance and repairs. In addition, 12.2 million dollars was invested to establish the second-phase system during the fiscal year 2011.

Although significant national funds were spent to establish the social security information system, the system has, in turn, produced diverse saving effects as it has helped to enhance accuracy in screening of welfare beneficiaries and it also helped to prevent overlapping welfare expenditures. The information system found that 273,994 welfare beneficiaries have improperly received welfare benefits, disqualifying these people from future benefits. Through these cost-saving effects, the information system was found to produce an estimated net-benefit effect of 763 million dollars that is approximately 7.2 percent of the total welfare spending in the fiscal year 2011.

For the cross-government expansion of the system, 16 ministries and six related institutions were involved in the task of establishing and connecting the system. Through this task, information about the welfare benefits is currently shared by 37 ministries and public organizations, including the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Labor, and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

The social security information system has supported innovation in public administration and institutional improvement after the establishment of the second-phase of the system. The system served as a basis for achieving a rise in the efficiency of financing, diverse welfare policies and project planning, and a satisfactory level of welfare beneficiaries.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Since initiated in 2009, the social security information system has continually been enlarged and reshuffled. Initially implemented by the incumbent government as a core national governance task, the welfare information system has been backed up with institutional preparations, financing, and organizational assistance.

First, the revisions of Social Welfare Project Act and the Framework Act on Social Security have laid out the legal basis for providing assistance not only to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s projects but also other ministries’ welfare projects. Second, the amendment of the Framework Act on Social Security was the basis for providing the stable financial assistance necessary for operating and managing the system, enabling continuous annual system upgrades. Third, KHWIS was established for the purpose of sustained system management and improvement, preparing for a professional management basis. Lastly, all welfare benefits are provided through the social security information system, making this system essential in operating welfare finance efficiently and administering public assistance and social services.

The social security information system can be easily applied by other countries or developing nations where there are individual ID numbers.

In 2010, a delegation of the Bahrain government benchmarked KHWIS in restructuring its social welfare service delivery structure, and KHWIS carried out basic consulting services on organization, institutionalization, and finance.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
There are a number of impacts that the social security information system has influenced on the welfare sector in Korea as below. First, in the current administrative culture, it is difficult for the government to take harsh measures or to sue recipients, even in cases of fraudulent behavior. Welfare expenditure will be unavoidably expanded to counter a growing concern about the falling birthrate and the aging of society in Korea. The problems of the complicated and inefficient welfare delivery system cause waste of welfare resources, and also it makes difficult to secure the long-term sustainability of the welfare system. Therefore, the system is considered a critical element in securing sustainable and credible welfare service regime.

Second, the execution of welfare financing has become more transparent than it used to be. Before the system was installed, there were many opportunities for officials to make contrived changes in the process for paying welfare benefits. Newspapers reported disparate 35 times of public official’s welfare embezzlement cases in 2009. After the establishment of the system, every work process was computerized, enabling identification of each official conducting this work through individualized IDs. Since operation of the system, there have not been any such media reports on corruption cases.

Third, the system has contributed to a rise in operational efficiency of the national welfare funds. The information system makes it possible to detect whether a welfare beneficiary receives overlapping or similar services from other ministries or verify periodically whether people are improperly on welfare. A standard process and platform are provided to institutions that do not have the system, preventing overlapping expenditures of the welfare system funds.

There are a number of lesson from the social security information system as below. First, it is known that ICT have vast potentials as a means of government innovation. In Korea, the establishment of the new system brought about welfare reforms and pushed such changes in laws and delivery systems. It is an instructive lesson to Korea as well as other countries.

Second, the system gained substantial achievements, but it is still upgrading and evolving. The system achieved the connection with the whole of the ministries’ welfare services, enabling the proactive delivery of an integrated services guide about welfare services in response to the multiple demands of people who want to be on welfare. As an essential requirement, the information system has strengthened inter-sectoral collaboration for providing comprehensive welfare services to the multi demands of people. Now, the system covers the entire social welfare services provided by central government. Hereafter, the system will expand its coverage to social welfare services of local government and some major nonprofit fundraising organizations at its third phase of development.

Finally, the president’s strong leadership and the dedication of related welfare officials are very important for the successful implementation of the cross-government system. In particular, the role of leadership becomes more important in coordinating with the different interests of the various stakeholders including the government ministries, local governments, public agents and financial institutions.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Korea Health and Welfare Information Service
Institution Type:   Public Organization  
Contact Person:   Young Jin Ham
Title:   Research Fellow  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-2-6360-6373/+82-2-6360-6360
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   15F Kukdong Bldg., 60-1 Chungmu-ro 3ga, Jung-gu
Postal Code:   100-705
City:   Seouol

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