Kristīne Ilgaža
Lauku atbalsta dienests

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
One of the main goals of Rural Support Service (RSS) of Latvia is to provide all necessary and important information for the clients of RSS using different methods and channels ensure every client despite his/her competence can receive all necessary and useful information to live and work in Latvia’s rural areas and develop them. Until 2007, to receive different types of EU and Latvia’s state support for agriculture, rural areas development, fisheries and forestry Latvian farmers, fishermen and rural entrepreneurs – the clients were required to complete an application form on paper. Consequently, there was a high probability that completing the data the clients could make mistakes and as a result not to receive support payments or not receive payments in full amount, which for employed in rural areas is an important support to develop their production in rural areas and ensure the traditional way of life in Latvia taking into account economic situation of Latvia where employment levels, income levels in rural areas are worse than in cities. RSS needed to ensure greater involvement of those persons and their activities in rural area and way how to give tool for them get all necessary information was to create helpful e-service to be reachable and easy for use – Electronic Application System (https://eps.lad.gov.lv/login) There were some more important problems which served as the basis for development of special, modern and unique for Latvia e-service. In rural areas of Latvia is a large group of people who operated subsistence farms or are unemployed and are sometimes employed in seasonal work in larger agricultural enterprises. It is essential to provide social security and safety assurance for this population. Until 2014, in this group of people was widespread illegal employment, because administrative procedures were administratively complicated to register seasonal work activities in legally. One of the EU's actions to ensure healthy lifestyle for children is an opportunity for schools to receive fruit, vegetables and milk. For measures administration in paper form also requires a complicated procedure. Consequently with this initiative - implementation of Electronic Application System is directed to a number of groups – RSS clients: farmers, fishermen, people who live and work in rural areas, students, young people – future famers and rural entrepreneurs, rural consultants and other groups.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In recent years in the world and in Latvia is increasing the availability of the Internet, which expanded the diversity of the channels in which the state can provide their services to residents, including farmers and entrepreneurs in rural areas. A information technology usability level is growing as well as the level of education of the entire population of using these technologies. Various assistance and counseling services develop that can provide help for people who lives in the countryside and are employed in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The facts mentioned above show that use of technologies makes access to information more available, timely, clear and accurate for every client of Rural Support Service of Latvia. Consequently, solving the above-mentioned problems and challenges in section “Problem Analyses” of the application form and for the needs of the Latvian farmers, fishermen and people living in rural areas and provide additional potential information and action channels for receiving EU and Latvia’s state support for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural areas that can ensure their traditional way of life and thereby the population in Latvian rural areas, was designed and developed Electronic Application System - modern, easy to use, unique for Latvia, which one of the main objectives was to create a suitable e-service system solution, which main objectives were: • reduce the administrative burden on farmers in obtaining public services; • to promote government efficiency and to accelerate the decision-making process, which in turn will make faster the receipt of services; • improve access to services for people who live in rural areas, maximally increase the number electronic public services provided for farmers, which are related to agriculture and rural support payments; • reduce the potential errors when applying for EU support to agriculture and rural areas, because in the Electronic Application System it is possible to integrate diverse inspection mechanisms to ensure both cross-checking of data input and verification of the data with other existing data systems. Originally, in 2007, when the initiative was launched to start implementation process, the first steps were direct focused on support to farmers - EU support payments intended for the preservation of the rural population and environment, application mechanism electronic measures for payments to provide agricultural land in good condition. This step was aimed to facilitate the farmers to fill applications and prevent potential errors in process of completing applications. Gradually created system was purposefully directed to include additional measures aimed to support farmers, different population groups living in rural areas and also other population groups. The main target groups of the initiative: • farmers, fishermen; • rural entrepreneurs; • people living in rural areas (including the poorest and uneducated, who are employed in seasonal agricultural activities); • educational institutions and students who thanks to the special aid measure in winter period was given a chance to receive additional healthy food – fruits, vegetables and milk.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Latvia is a country that is relatively late introduced a variety of different e-services in public sector. Until 2007, to receive different types of EU support payments the clients were required to complete an application forms on paper. That raises problem - in process of completing the data the clients made mistakes and as a result did not receive the support payments. The development of information technology and Internet services becoming more accessible in Latvia for every inhabitant, there was the opportunity to make electronically transform complex application forms, embedding in them variety of data test and warning mechanisms, which significantly simplified the filling of support receipting application forms, cut the data errors and simplified the process for farmers. Creation and implementation of such system promoted the knowledge-level rise of information technology of rural residents and people working in rural areas, and accelerated this social group interaction with the state. In process of developing and implementing an Electronic Application System much attention has been focused on its ease way of use and comprehensiveness in order to make use of it clearer, simpler and more well-to-use in population groups that do not have specific prior knowledge of information technology demo version in Latvian: http://eps.lad.gov.lv:9110/login)

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Electronic Application System (EAS) was implanted gradually. Development began in 2007, but the first applications fulfilled by users, was received in 2008. The first system specifications were developed in 2007, this year programming work started. For the system to be easy to use for the clients of Rural Support Service (RSS) and ensure the users would not require additional resources to work with this system, it was decided to build a web-based. Thereby, the system users for its use was required only computer with a browser and Internet connection (https://eps.lad.gov.lv/login). RSS Electronic Application System was recognized as high quality and innovative on national level – that was the main precondition to include services of the other state institutions in the system. All e-applications regarding agricultural sector are now in one portal. Electronic application system implementation process from 2008 to 2014: 35 applications for ~ 70 aid schemes Year of implementation System module Number of aid measures 2008 Client information 0 2008 EAS user information 0 2008 Area payment application 22 2009 Payments 0 2009 Documents 0 2010 Field borders clarification 1 2010 Diesel fuel for farmers 1 2010 Investment applications 1 2011 Sustainability criteria application 1 2012 Support for breeding 39 2012 Preservation of genetic resources of farm animals 1 2012 School fruits and vegetables 1 2012 School milk 1 2013 Support for insurance policy 1 2013 (State Plant Protection Service) 1 2013 Agricultural Data Centre e- application 0 2013 State Technical Supervision Agency e- application 0 2014 Subsidized electricity tax 0 2014 Seasonal farmer module 1 2014 Reports on fishing licenses 0 2014 Fertilizers plan summary (service of State Plant Protection Service) 0 2014 The agrochemical soil research (service of State Plant Protection Service) 0 2014 Document registration module 0 Total: 71 The users of EAS can authorize into the system using unique username and password, with E-signature and Bank authorisation (https://eps.lad.gov.lv/login). Now in EAS are available more than 30 e - application forms, additional services (payments, documents, csv files, shp files, client and user information's) are introduced, there are additional guides how to use e-applications (guidebooks, video). In futures Rural Support Service of Latvia plans to improve the usability and design, the mobile application now are in development process as well as increase the number of e-applications in the system.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Project initiative came from the Rural Support Service (RSS), which is responsible for administration of various support measures for agriculture, rural areas, fisheries and forestry in Latvia. Electronic application system development was developed by “Tieto Latvia” Ltd., which won this right in an open tender procedure. The first versions of the system was developed in cooperation only by RSS and “Tieto Latvia” Ltd. In the process of system development and taking into account increase of the number of users, new services were integrated in the system. RSS take into account the ideas if the clients – users of system about necessary improvements in the system as well discuss them with the public organizations of farmers - Farmers Federation, Agricultural Organizations Cooperation Council, etc. Non-governmental organizations have also submitted ideas for the improvement of the system and ways how to improve usability. For example, they were involved in EAS geographic information usability testing to make this section most convenient and easy to use. One of the latest system module "Seasonal farmer module" development initiative came directly from public organizations with the implementation of this module was reached that: • decreased administrative burden for farmers, fishermen and rural entrepreneurs ; • many rural residents moved from economic "shadow" sector to the legal income and got the opportunity to obtain a minimum social guarantees basket.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Total Electronic Application System development during the period from 2007 to 2014 (inclusive) were consumed more than 1300 system developers man-days in total monetary value of more than 500 000 EUR (including Geographic Information Component, which provides essential system modules activity) . In the system development participated RSS workers, who defined the requirements and tested the system and “Tieto Latvia” Ltd., who were the developers. Also, a lot of work system ideas and specifications defining invested Rural Support Service, which is responsible for various support measures for agriculture, rural areas and fisheries administration in Latvia. Electronic Application System development was financed from the Latvian state budget and the European Union EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) technical assistance funds. Funding for Electronic Application System development was requested by the Rural Support Service. Throughout the course of the project was supervised by the state.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The success of Electronic Application System (EAS) was due to several specific benefits that could be obtained through the farmers, rural communities and other groups: • One of the key parameters required, which is indicative and important to prove the success of the project is the growth of the number of users. Since there was (and still exists) services, which can apply for using the system and submit on the paper, the EAS growth in the number of users very well point to its success (1064 users of the system in year 2008 to more than 21 500 users of the system in year 2014); • The latest system module "Seasonal farmer module" implementations positive outcome result was reduce the shadow economy in the seasonal agricultural workforce, it give make a direct impact on the economic performance of Latvia. This indicator will also be evaluated again in the future in Latvian government; • EAS module “School fruits and vegetables” (780 schools) and “School milk” (917 schools) success rate is also number how many schools are using this module and how many children receive healthy food under the program. The data shows that more than 90% of all schools in Latvia use module ; • Very serious demand of the results was for EAS module "Diesel fuel for farmers," because according to the Latvian government's conditions, diesel fuel on preferential terms to farmers may be marketed only through records in the module. This means that only the successful implementation of this module could provide relief to the farmers in the purchase of diesel fuel. • Rural Support Service (RSS) received state prize as the best e-service provided by state institution. The RSS client satisfaction surveys every year show increasing number of clients using EAS and positive evaluation of the system. These are all indicators point to a successful implementation and development of the system and are a good platform for future opportunities for expansion of the system.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Rural Support Service (RSS) introduced Electronic Application System (EAS) project as part of RSS Information System development. Project management including monitoring was organized with the following approaches: setting regular work priorities, transfer of system modules tests, processing of applications from the clients, identification of change requests occurred in project management workgroup, which was organized at least once a week. On current issues affecting the clients, they were informed in the RSS and non-governmental organizations meetings. In these meetings RSS also informed the farmers' organizations for new opportunities in EAS and also heard the views of the organizations of the project development process and proposals for EAS performance improvement. In turn, the entire project oversight, escalate issues solving, reporting, change requests coordination was held in the project board meetings, which was organized at least once a month. Project board meeting was scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month, but was able to also agree on other date. Reports on the progress of the project was prepared by the project managers and sent on the day before the board meeting. In process of developing EAS functionality list, it was created from User Stories, which is a small system usage scenario from the point of view of particular user roles. User Story described one particular system usage scenario from the perspective of a single user role. User Stories were used as a planning unit in the planning process. In this process, the RSS also involved non-governmental organizations to find out their views on what the system would need to make it the most user-friendly for farmers, rural communities and other population groups and categories of the clients, which uses this system. Of course, one of the key moments of the surveillance was very simple – did EAS users within the deadlines have the opportunity to use the new system functionality or to use enhancements of the existing functionality?

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Electronic Application System (EAS) development initially took place in the period (2008 to 2009), when the whole world was affected by the economic crisis. Consequently, in Latvia measures were taken to reduce costs. However, the EAS development funds were allocated and the work continued. We can also mention some of the problems encountered in the development and implementation of the project: • Level of internet access in the Latvian countryside, in 2008 - 2011 was quite low, and thereby the system could not be used by all who wished to do so. From 2011 the Latvian internet service providers began to rapidly develop internet coverage. Appeared new broadband mobile internet opportunities for 3G and from 2013 is rapidly developed the latest generation of 4G coverage. The availability of internet has enabled the faster growing number of EAS users; • The second problem was related to EAS Geographic Information System (GIS) section which was initially difficult and difficult for users to learn. Gradually, this section was improved. In this process was an also involved system users representatives from farmers organizations, who tested the GIS and gave their views. The result of the work was maximally simple user-friendly opportunity to draw maps in EAS without special prior knowledge and skills. In process of complementing the system was designed opportunity for copying the previous year’s applications and make adjustments in them, which contributed to the EAS usability and user-friendliness. • There was also a problem that many rural inhabitants because of their weak knowledge of information technologies were afraid to use the system. The problem was solved by creating "Consultant module" that allows customers authorized persons to submit applications on behalf of clients. As well as Rural Support Service introduced Demo version of the system.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Electronic Application System (EAS) implementation utility and successful process of implementation shows a number of indicators: • Number of EAS users in the period from 2007 to 2014 has increased from 1064 users of the system in year 2008 to more than 21 500 users of the system in year 2014, which means that educational level in usage of information technologies is raised. • The latest system module "Seasonal farmer module" implementation in its first months of operation has already showed results, that more than 2000 rural residents were registered as seasonal farm workers to farmers and began to gain legal income and minimal social guarantees. Farmers organizations have welcomed this system module options and examine the possibility of expanding this module to encourage action to cover a wider field work employed low-skilled labor force; • EAS module “School fruits and vegetables” is used by 780 schools in which fruits and vegetables can get 157 531 pupils; • EAS module “School milk” uses 917 schools and milk in their diet can use 195,930 children; • More than 18 000 farmers receive discounts on diesel fuel used in agricultural work, which trade and accounting is made by refueling stations and they use EAS module "Diesel fuel for farmers." For the successful implementation of this module also shows the fact that diesel dealers expressed a desire to RSS developed system for use in other needs and not just in accounting diesel fuel used in agricultural work by farmers. All these indicators points to a successful implementation and development of EAS and is a good platform for expansion of future opportunities.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The Electronic Application System (EAS) developed and introduced by Rural Support Service (RSS) is sustainable and transferable. This evidenced can proof several facts: • System availability is expanding every year with new modules for which implementation proposals provide not only governmental institutions but also non-governmental organizations, farmers, entrepreneurs and other population groups. As example of this is seasonal farm workers module, the initiators of development of that module were farmer’s organizations. Also, as previously mentioned, the diesel dealers expresses a desire to RSS developed systems for use in other needs, not just for diesel fuel accounting; • EAS usability and project management principles continue to be used when developing EAS based additional modules that provide additional services to farmers in the electronic environment. For example, in 2014 launched and in 2015 scheduled for completion “Fertilizers plan” module, which will allow farmers to plan their agricultural land fertilization according to different requirements; • Also RSS developed EAS as a basis for the development of own services are also used in other institutions of Ministry of Agriculture.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
In process of developing and implementing EPS, RSS and non-governmental organizations came to several conclusions: • To make system development and implementation process successful, it must be carried out step by step and there is no need to try to develop the entire system at once; • Do not be afraid that the original system at the beginning will be difficult, because simplifying the system may come at a later stage; • Outsource users of the system (in this case farmers, their organizations, etc..) need to be attracted, but only when the system is already developed and need to start the systems testing, use and simplicity improvement; • Large role in the course of development and implementation should be given to activities how to inform and educate people about the system performance and capacity. This was solved by creating training materials on paper and in electronic environment - were created videos with different instructions for use of the system. These videos can be viewed at: o http://www.lad.gov.lv/lv/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps-1/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps/: o http://www.lad.gov.lv/lv/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps-1/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps/7 o http://www.lad.gov.lv/lv/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps-1/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps/9 o http://www.lad.gov.lv/lv/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps-1/e-pieteiksanas-sistema-eps/12

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Lauku atbalsta dienests
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Kristīne Ilgaža
Title:   Communication  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   kristine.ilgaza@lad.gov.lv  
Address:   Republikas laukums 2
Postal Code:   LV-1010
City:   Rīga
State/Province:  
Country:  

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