| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
After the initial system outline was envisioned, further steps were taken to refine its design details.
The project had to fit within significant temporal and financial limits. At this point, REGOS barely kept up with the document issuing process, so a working solution had to be implemented in a matter of months. On the other hand, budget cuts across all government departments left no significant financial resources available.
An IT company was chosen to implement the software using open-source components. Among other positive aspects, open-source software entails no licensing fees, so major savings were achieved. Also, it eliminates a potential vendor lock-in - an unpleasant situation in which proprietary software delivered by a single vendor becomes very expensive over time, but it is also prohibitively expensive and/or impractical to replace by another vendor.
In order to save both time and money, any preexisting compatible systems and processes would be reused. User authentication subsystem, in use since 2002 by another REGOS's process, was reused through an open user authentication standard. It was eventually replaced year and a half later by a national-level user authentication infrastructure (NIAS). Both of these basically map a username/password combination to a national identification number, which uniquely identifies a person requesting a digital document.
Another reused system was document generating application, used previously for paper-based documents. Instead of printing and stamping the PDF document, REGOS's staff would upload it to a new system, which in turn added a digital signature and made it available for download by the requesting person. This process was not ideal, since it still involved REGOS's operators, but it was an improvement. Eventually, automated request processing was implemented using open standard. It connected new document delivery system and the preexisting databases, so the requests could be handled in a matter of seconds, 24/7.
Parallel with the software development, meetings and seminars were organized for the business sector members. Clear and direct communication was critical because any misunderstanding of the new document delivery process by its end users would cause the project to fail. Processes within business entities required minimal adjustments, however these still had to be communicated clearly across all of their hierarchy levels. Test environment was established for several key users so they could provide feedback before real world use started. After the system was put into production, information was disseminated through media and REGOS's electronic newsletter. User feedback was collected via REGOS's call center.
Chronology of the activities:
Basic idea and system outline was presented.
June - October 2012
Further improvement of the system architecture design.
Identification of existing resources.
Identification of major implementation steps.
October - December 2012
System design was accepted.
Initial implementation guideline was produced.
Software implementation started.
Software was implemented in a test environment.
Seminars for electronic documents' end users (business sector).
January 25, 2013.
System was made available for public use with total of 5 document types available.
REGOS's operators were still needed for request processing.
Automated request processing development started.
July 29, 2013.
Automated request processing was completed and put into production.
Total of 8 document types were available.
June 10, 2014
Integration with NIAS (National Identification and Authentication Service) was implemented.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Project was designed by REGOS's staff.
The following partners contributed to the implementation:
A private software company, implemented electronic document delivery service and the integration with other systems.
A public software company, provided legacy user authentication system (in use since 2002) and initial document request submission.
A government agency, maintains REGOS's database systems which were adapted for automated document issuing.
Croatian Chamber of Economy
Supported the project, organized seminar for their members (leasing institutions and other companies), helped disseminate information via electronic newsletter.
Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts
Included relevant information regarding electronic documents in its printed monthly publication sent to all the members.
Government of the Republic of Croatia
Initiated implementation of e-Citizens project. This umbrella project standardized user authentication (through NIAS) and some other visual and technical aspects of all the e-government systems.
All major banks in Croatia, and other leasing and financial institutions
They accepted electronic documents as relevant documentation in their internal systems. This required policy adaptations.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Financial resources allocated for the project:
- Initial software development: 4,200 EUR,
- Annual maintenance (software bug fixes and upgrades), computing and networking resources lease, SMS notifications, digital certificates: 14,200 EUR.
Project was entirely funded from REGOS's budget. Investment was approved by the Ministry of Labor and Pension System, REGOS's parent institution.
REGOS's IT department and document issuing personnel spent 1,200 person-hours on the project implementation.
APIS development team spent an estimated 120 person-hours on authentication protocol implementation. This protocol was also implemented for partner's other internal purposes so the expenses were not billed.
FINA developed web service for automated document issuing. This activity was classified as maintenance within the existing contract.
Use of preexisting technical resources included the following:
- REGOS's database systems maintained by FINA agency,
- Web based reporting system for affiliates and it’s authentication system
- PDF document creation system previously used for paper-based document issuing process.
Outsourcing partners Ultima, APIS and FINA utilized their software development and testing environments for the implementation of necessary software components.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Equal availability - electronic document request can be submitted from home or any other location with Internet access. If the user has no Internet access, it is still possible to use old, paper-based forms.
Efficiency - requests are processed 24/7. Electronic document is available for download seconds after the request has been filed.
Confidentiality and security - encryption protocol commonly used on the Internet secures the communication between user and the service. User authentication is performed over a standardized protocol, used by several e-government services in Croatia. It is important to note that users need to authenticate themselves when requesting an electronic document due to personal data protection requirements. After their identity is confirmed, the request can be filed. Once the document is generated, its unique access identifier is created, together with protection code. These two pieces of information are then sent via e-mail and/or SMS to an e-mail address or mobile phone number provided on the request form. Any person with this information can download a specific document. This mechanism enables citizens to forward document access data to their bank clerk or any other person they wish to share the document with.
Fraud prevention - use of digital signature enables document authenticity validation. Any subsequent document change invalidates the signature. Signature validation is performed by document viewing software (i.e. PDF viewer). If the document has been tampered with, this fact becomes clearly displayed.
Rationalization - there are no more fees involved with the document issuing process, so this service became completely free for all users. REGOS also cut expenses because physical document handling was reduced to a minimum.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Identification of critical document delivery components, permanent monitoring and timely response are major factors contributing to system sustainability. Computing infrastructure and system's major software components are monitored 24/7. IT support team is notified within minutes of any detected anomaly.
Project administrators can generate statistical reports for any given time period. Reports contain the following information:
- total number of document requests,
- total number of document downloads,
- breakdown by document type.
Statistical reports are generated and analyzed on regular basis, showing any emerging trends. Management decisions regarding electronic document delivery service are backed by this usage data. Members of business sector (documents' end users) are also frequently contacted by REGOS. Any identified issues are discussed and the findings are fed back to the document delivery system design team. Service has to be able to adapt to new requirements over time. This is particularly important when legislation introduces new document type. Apart from just technically enabling its download, communicating any related business changes to all the end users is also important.
REGOS maintains a call center for citizens. Most questions can be answered and issues resolved at this level. However, complex issues and those that keep reappearing are forwarded to a higher support level. For example, if it becomes evident that a certain system feature is frequently misunderstood, design team will review it and try to come up with an improved version.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Obstacles encountered can be classified within three categories:
- percentage of population using the Internet and their general level of technical knowledge,
- insufficient or ambiguous legal framework,
- acceptance of a digitally signed electronic document as a secure, accurate and traceable source of information by the requesting end users (financial institutions).
According to Eurostat's 2013 Internet use statistics, 67% of Croatian population uses Internet at least once in three months - a moderate result, below the European Union average of 75%. Next major technical obstacle is a user authentication. Citizens have to register a unique, password protected, username, which is then tied to their national identification number. This implies one-time visit to a service desk (located in every town), presenting their identity card and filling the form. Most questions received through REGOS's call center are related to this issue - citizens are not sure where the registration should be done and what to do next.
Technical support for citizens was mainly done through Call Centre which was supported by additional staff during first months of project implementation.
Croatian laws do regulate use of digital signatures. However, use of a specific type of digital signature involved in an automated process used for electronic document delivery was somewhat ambiguous, especially because this was its first major implementation. The issue was successfully resolved.
REGOS has presented to financial institutions all the benefits of this project, and they had agreed to
adjust their internal processes and accept electronic documents.
Information campaign lasted for two months. It was short but very successful, thanks to the involvement of professional associations - Croatian Banking Association, Croatian Chamber of Economy and Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts. They helped inform all of their relevant members and their involvement greatly contributed to the initiative's success.