The Dutch government wants to increase the quality of interaction between citizens and their government. Proactive services could contribute to this goal by creating more ease of use for the citizen and enable governmental service providers to deliver their services more efficiently and inclusive. However, proactivity is not always desired and can not always be incorporated.
Proactivity is about moving the initiative from the citizen to the government and can be incorporated in many different ways in public services. An example of a proactive service in the Netherlands is the pre-completed tax return (VIA) of the Tax Office (Belastingdienst), where the yearly tax return is pre-filled and citizens have to check and if necessary complement the information. Fully proactive public services have proactivity incorporated in them to a degree where, without the request, but with the consent of a citizen, these are delivered automatically to that citizen. Fully proactive services are scarce in the Netherlands and best practices of proactive service design are currently unknown.
Therefore, in this thesis, a framework of design principles is developed to guide governmental organisations in raising the level of proactivity of their services. This is done by answering the following questions:
What design principles can be identified for proactive public service design for governmental organizations in the Netherlands?
• Subquestion 1: What are the different levels of proactivity for public services?
• Subquestion 2: What is the current state of development of proactive public services in governmental organizations?
• Subquestion 3: What strategies can be used to stimulate proactive service development?
This is done by combining the Information Systems Research Framework of (Hevner et al., 2004) & Principle-Based Design (Bharosa & Janssen, 2015). This means both empirical problem analysis, through case studies, as well as experiences of information system architects, through interviews, are utilized as two complementary information sources. Principles have been selected as the main contribution of this thesis since these are useful in multi-actor environments, since they focus on goal attainment, instead of providing specific solutions, which can limit the ability of information architects to develop creative solutions for their specific situation.
Firstly, the different actors, their context and environment are investigated in chapter 1: Introduction. Proactive services could be beneficial for all actors and could even contribute to a solution of existing tensions between policymakers and service providers by providing highquality services to citizens, which are efficient and executable at the same time. Cooperation between policymakers and service providers and between service providers themselves will be required. However, not all public services are suitable to be transformed into proactive services, and proactivity is not always desired by citizens. The available academic knowledge has been extracted from the knowledge base in a systematic literature review in chapter 2: Literature Review. While proactivity is about moving the required initiative from the citizen to the government, proactive public services have proactivity incorporated to a degree where these services are without the request, but with the consent of a citizen, delivered automatically to that citizen. However, not all services have the potential to become proactive due to their service characteristics or user acceptance. It was found however that proactivity can be incorporated in many different ways and can vary along the different variables of proactive services, which are: (1) Triggering actor, (2) Information required from a citizen, (3) Interaction required from a citizen.
Therefore in chapter 3: Analytical Framework a conceptual framework was developed to be able to better classify and understand the different levels of proactivity. For a governmental organisation to be able to deliver a proactive service it must be able to complete two essential processes, without having to interact with a citizen. A governmental organisation must be able to: (1) Determine when a citizen is eligible to receive a service: the eligibility process and (2) Be able to consequently deliver the service to that citizen: the delivery process.
If both of these processes can be fulfilled without interacting with a citizen, the service can become a fully proactive service. If this is not possible, moderate levels of proactivity can be achieved through proactive provision of information to enable the citizen to determine their eligibility themselves, and by minimizing the amount of information and interaction requested from a citizen. Therefore the answer to subquestion 1: “What are the different levels of proactivity for public services?” can not be given exactly, but will depend on the amount of effort a citizen has to put in the eligibility process and the delivery process. The analytical framework was consequently used in chapter 4: Exemplary cases & Case studies to classify exemplary cases of public services in the Netherlands that have proactivity incorporated. Moreover, semi-structured interviews were performed to investigate two case studies. These case studies illustrated that proactivity can be incorporated in public services for different purposes. While in the case study of the pre-completed tax return (VIA) of the Tax Office (Belastingdienst) proactivity was used to increase the quality of information and standardize processes, in the case study of the Supplementary Income Elderly (AIO) of the Social Insurance Bank (SVB), proactivity was seen as a way to create more ease of use for the citizen and make the service more inclusive. Proactive service development is a challenge however, as the citizen itself does not trigger services anymore. This must be achieved by other means, which will most often mean information will have to be exchanged to be able to trigger and deliver these services. However, this information exchange is subjected to the GDPR (AVG) to ensure the privacy of citizens. Development of proactive services in compliance with the AVG is a challenge.
Finally, the design principles were developed in chapter 5: Design Principles. Due to the reusable nature of principles, firstly existing principles for (proactive) services were analyzed and in combination with the findings of the literature review and case studies used to develop a draft. This draft was consequently evaluated and refined through evaluating interviews to be able to incorporate the experiences of practitioners. The draft of design principles was firstly evaluated through a personal interview with an academic expert, Regina Erlenheim, followed by two personal interviews with two information architects of governmental service providers having experience with proactivity and design principles and lastly though a group evaluation session with four innovation designers of the Digicampus to incorporate their knowledge and experiences in the final framework of design principles.
Ultimately, the design principles were developed to guide governmental organisations to not only develop fully proactive services, but to achieve the highest possible level of proactivity. Moreover, the principles were designed to incorporate the different perspectives of the actors. Therefore, proactive services can be realized by achieving the different characteristics of proactive service, while at the same time ensuring user acceptance of citizens.
Proactive service characteristics can be achieved by the following principles:
• Governmental initiative,
• Minimization of interaction,
• Minimization of requested information,
• Personalized services and delivery (1).
User acceptance can be achieved by the following principles:
• Personalized services and delivery (2),
• Citizens are in control,
While the developed design principles provide guidance to proactive service development, it is important to note that this can be stimulated in different ways as well, which is investigated in chapter 6: Realization Strategies. It is important to remember proactive services rely on information exchange and therefore roughly two main strategies can be identified. Either more information exchange can be enabled or the amount of information that needs to be exchanged can be reduced. This could for example be achieved by enabling the citizen to give their consent for the information exchange for proactive purposes or by developing services and policies bottom-up to be solely based on readily available and exchangeable information. Here it is recommended to not only enable the citizen to consent, but let citizens choose what can be done with that information, which means the citizen should be able to decide their desired level of proactivity.
Whether a service has the ability to become a (fully) proactive service will depend on whether a service can be triggered and delivered without or with minimal involvement of the citizen. This will often decrease as service complexity increases. Suitability of proactivity does not only depend on achievability, but on desirability as well. The maximum achievable level of proactivity will depend on the level of initiative a citizen wants to keep or give away over their personal information and service delivery. Fully proactive services can be suitable for services that are compulsory, have clear eligibility criteria and have no negative consequences for citizens (Scholta & Lindgren, 2019). Fully proactive services can however be rejected by citizens for services which use sensitive subject or sensitive personal information. Services which are rights and require the expression of will of a citizen, therefore always require interaction, which means their maximum level of proactivity will be a click-of-a-button service, where citizens are offered and can accept service delivery with a single action. For services that could have negative consequences for the citizen this interaction presents the ability for citizens to take responsibility for the correctness of the used information and to accept the possibility for these negative consequences to occur. Again, it must be remembered that different public services, situations and citizens, will require different levels of proactivity. No one-size-fits-all solution will be applicable. Therefore experimentation and continuous sharing of knowledge and lessons learnt will be important, which could take place or be enabled by the Digicampus. Furthermore, it is clear that developments towards data exchange (eco)systems or a self-sovereign identity will affect or enable possibilities for proactive services. In the context of proactive services it is important that these systems do not only enable citizens to share their information only once, but enable citizens to consent to future use of their information by governmental organisations for proactive purposes. Ideally, the citizen could specify their desired levels of proactivity of what could be done with that information.
Overall, governmental service providers and policymakers can use the design principles for proactive service development, which is the main contribution of this thesis. This could be beneficial for all actors, but will only be applicable in certain situations and scenarios. However, due to the reliance of proactive services on the exchange of information, more strategies can be identified to stimulate proactive public service development that will require a more centralized government-wide approach. This will require more research. Furthermore, more research can be done regarding the user acceptance and ethical issues of proactive services through the involvement of the citizen and other stakeholders, as this has not yet been investigated empirically. Again, as stated before, it must be remembered that different public services, situations and citizens, will desire different levels of proactivity. Therefore experimentation and continuous sharing of knowledge and lessons learnt will be important, which could take place or be enabled by the Digicampus.