4. Public service design and delivery in the digital age

The digital transformation of economies and societies has changed the expectation of citizens and businesses about the services they consume. The COVID-19 pandemic suddenly made digital the default and in so doing underscored the importance of being able to move seamlessly between analogue and digital environments for family, study, work, leisure and, crucially, public services, which are a critical point of contact between a state and its citizens, residents, businesses and visitors.

The design and delivery of public services in the digital age can improve the efficiency of public agencies, the well-being of citizens and their satisfaction with government, as well as the success of policy. Digital government is not about taking paper-based interactions and porting them to the Internet; it is about embracing a digital-by-design culture that re-engineers and re-designs services to reflect digital-era working practices, the smarter use of data and the appropriate deployment of technology (OECD, 2019[12]; Ubaldi et al., 2019[72]; OECD, 2020[14]; OECD, 2021[13]). This means replacing top-down assumptions with a more engaging and collaborative relationship that empowers service teams to explore and understand the needs of citizens, businesses and other stakeholders while equipping them with the resources and tools they need to better meet the needs they discover (OECD, 2020[73]).

Digital government is therefore a route to ensuring digital progress benefits everyone, including those who rely on face-to-face interactions. That means looking inwards, to address the context of government as it relates to culture, capability and processes, and outwards, to focus on the needs of users throughout their experience of a public service regardless of the channel through which that service is delivered (OECD, 2020[73]). The Government of Slovenia is ambitious for using the opportunities of the digital age to reduce the burden and cost of interactions while increasing satisfaction, effectiveness and trust, making the question of service design and delivery one of the priority areas for this Digital Government Review.

The OECD Framework for Public Service Design and Delivery (Figure 4.1) identifies three areas that inform and shape their quality and provides the basis for the analysis of public service design and delivery in Slovenia (OECD, 2020[73]):

  1. 1. the context in terms of representative and organisational politics, the history of channel strategies, technology and infrastructure and finally, societal and geographic factors

  2. 2. the service design and delivery philosophy in terms of leadership, as well as the behaviours associated with understanding whole problems, designing an end-to-end service experience, involving the public, combining disciplines to work across organisational boundaries and delivering in an agile way

  3. 3. the availability of enabling resources and technology that can determine the quality of experience and outcomes for citizens, businesses and visitors as well as the speed with which service teams are able to respond to the needs of their users in transforming the service landscape.

This chapter presents the existing context for service design and delivery in Slovenia and then discusses the culture and philosophy observed in consideration of this issue before finally assessing the resources that support service design and delivery in the country.

The ability for a country to respond to the opportunities of service design and delivery is influenced by the context in which these activities take place, specifically as in the three areas shown in Figure 4.2. Representative and organisational politics and the role of leadership in securing long-term strategic planning, financial investment and the mandate to address any blockers have a big influence on the feasibility of establishing a philosophy of service design and resourcing the enablers to support it. Further influences come from historic efforts to design and deliver public services, as the associated processes, data flows and channels can emerge without co-ordination, causing users to shoulder the burden of visiting multiple locations to address a single need. The legacy of politics, physical infrastructure, data, technology, channels, brands and supplier contracts all influence the speed and capability of a public sector in pursuing its ambitions for transforming public services. Finally, shaping the context for citizens as they access services are questions of society and geography that may mean digital inclusion, access and literacy need to be prioritised in terms of how services are designed and delivered.

Chapter 1 discussed the Digital Government Policy Framework as the basis for measuring digital government maturity (OECD, 2020[14]; OECD, 2020[15]). It imagines an ideal where the culture of government is user-driven and open by default and built on strong digital-by-design, government as a platform and data-driven foundations with the resulting public services being proactive and inclusive. Although there is nothing controversial in this idea, which should be politically neutral, it is as reliant on political stability and commitment as any other agenda.

The governance for digital government in Slovenia is discussed more fully in Chapters 1 and 2 and highlighted the challenge of the country’s changing political leadership while, more operationally, the Strategic Board for Informatics Development which had met quarterly was in abeyance. However, recent developments are encouraging. Firstly, the prime minister established a new council for digitalisation composed of the government’s top information technology (IT) managers and researchers to influence strategy and help co-ordination across the Slovenian public sector with the ambition to rank within the top five in the European Union’s Digital Economy and Society Index. Secondly, the new Government Office for Digital Transformation and its dedicated Minister indicate significant priority being given to this agenda at the centre. By working closely with the MPA, there is a real opportunity to give leadership to the ambition of a proactive, user-driven and open by default model of service design and delivery.

By contrast, uncertain leadership can undermine the sustainability of a transformed philosophy for designing public services and setting direction for implementing different models of delivery. This has affected the outcomes of the Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020 (Republic of Slovenia, 2015[7]). As Slovenia develops its future strategy it will be important for the work begun by the Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) to be further emphasised in terms of funding, authority and personnel to ensure that the service design and delivery agenda is given the long-term stability, mandate and resources to succeed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the digital agenda offered the basis for countries to maintain normality and consequently renewed the priority of digital transformation for political leaders. Nevertheless, the leadership for digital government must be weighed carefully. On one extreme, enthusiasm and passion can make an apolitical and neutral priority a personal project with the risk that successors choose to distance themselves from something so connected to their predecessors. By contrast, the absence of such enthusiasm or knowledge can be damaging in the loss of time and absence of momentum. Therefore, in order to remove the risk of either extreme it is important to find ways to embed a philosophy of service design and delivery (as discussed in the following section) and the skills for digital government into the mainstream functioning of government, for all politicians and public servants (OECD, 2021[13]).

In seeking long-term foundations, Slovenia has developed legal frameworks, particularly around data as is discussed in Chapter 5. Legislation can be an important contributor to cross-cutting agendas and a route to providing a central mandate, but there are drawbacks in this approach. For example, defining the specific process for a given service removes the flexibility to iterate in response to developing a deeper understanding of needs. This means changing the culture of the practice of government and makes it vital to prioritise the efforts to equip politicians and public servants with the necessary skills for digital government, as discussed in Chapter 3 (OECD, 2021[13]).

Although Slovenia is a small country and the centre can influence local government, three of the four municipalities that participated in the review reflected on a lack of initiatives to help co-ordinate and transform the quality and experience of service design and delivery at every level. Countries are exploring the possibilities of this partnership in different ways. For example, in Panama, centrally provided common platforms are available to local government and, in Spain, local governments are legally recognised as essential participants in the governance for digital transformation (OECD, 2019[10]; OECD, 2020[73]).

Although peer-to-peer activity within and across the Slovenian public sector was highlighted as an area for improvement, Slovenia does benefit from active international participation within both the European Union (EU) and the OECD. There is a clear, and important, openness to learning from other countries and drawing on their best practices to suit the Slovenian context which underpins some of the country’s technical strengths. On a practical level, this means Slovenia is involved with preparing for the implementation of the EU’s Single Digital Gateway as well as ongoing efforts to enhance the cross-border interoperability of services, data and technologies such as digital identity (see Box 4.1).

The second area of activity that shapes the context for the design and delivery of public services is the legacy of channels, technology and infrastructure.

Countries such as Brazil, Ireland, Greece and the United Kingdom, among others, are increasingly pursuing strategies in the design and delivery of services that unify the user experience and rationalise their public sector web estates into single government domains. In the OECD Digital Government Index, Slovenia identified a national single website to be the most relevant channel for delivering services but, unlike the examples of the named countries, this are in fact four different national channels: all corporate government information is being consolidated onto GOV.SI but the single entry point for citizens to access services is eUprava, with SPOT (Slovenska Poslovna Točka) acting as the equivalent for businesses and OPSI (Odprti Podatki Slovenije) fulfilling this function for Open Government Data.

The review observed that the combination of these four sites is simplifying the user experience for accessing services. However, the strategy for distinguishing between corporate information, citizen services, business services and open data, with signposting between them as necessary, does still leave citizens negotiating multiple domains and different website designs. Although much corporate information has now migrated to GOV.SI, there are legacy services, information and micro-sites served through older domains and infrastructure. The national website may be the most important channel, but there is ongoing relevance for sector-specific sites during this transitional period including those providing information about companies (http://evem.gov.si), taxes (http://edavki.durs.si), employment (http://www.poiscidelo.si) and health (http://zvem.ezdrav.si), as well as business registers (https://www.ajpes.si/prs/) and the resources to support interoperability (https://nio.gov.si/nio/). Against this backdrop, it was encouraging to hear an expectation that welfare and health would be consolidated from the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia (Zavod za pokojninsko in invalidsko zavarovanje Slovenij, ZPIZ) and the National Institute of Public Health (Nacionalni inštitut za javno zdravje, NIJZ). Nevertheless, fully addressing the legacy of institutional or sectoral channels will need continued technical and strategic investment.

The review highlighted that legacy technology platforms and systems and the reliance on external suppliers with the specialist skills to develop them were big constraints to being able to adopt an agile approach to developing services in an iterative fashion. Migrating from systems built up over time is not easy and will require targeted funding and explicit commitment to deliver in a way that not only meets the needs of citizens but works for internal users too as seen in the United States experience discussed in Box 4.2.

In addition to technology and contractual relationships, existing legislation can also be a barrier to digital transformation by stipulating a requirement for in-person or paper-based processes. This makes it important for the eUprava and SPOT teams to work with the Government Office for Legislation and other ministries to identify problematic legislation and increasingly adopt an agile approach modelled on the “Rules as Code” model to allow for a more fluid relationship between the design of services and its associated legislation (Mohun and Roberts, 2020[77]).

Legacy challenges are not limited to the digital experience of consuming public services. Public services are not only provided online and efforts to introduce a “digital-by-default” approach that removes offline access can exacerbate digital divides and fail to respond to the needs of particular sections of society. Slovenia operates local administrative outlets for numerous different government departments and agencies, while municipal governments offer their own solutions too. Prior to the COVID-19 era, these physical services were a highly appreciated part of the infrastructure for the public sector, as citizens knew that they could arrive in person and be helped with minimal friction and no cost. This is particularly relevant for services where identification is required given the early adoption of digital identity by public services and citizens in Slovenia. The contractual, organisational and practical implications of administering and, where appropriate, consolidating and transforming services accessed through all service locations needs to be considered when addressing the overall strategy for designing and delivering public services.

The final area that shapes the capacity of countries to meet the needs of their users through the design and delivery of public services is the societal structure and geography of a country. As has been discussed in previous chapters, the size of Slovenia and its population offers both benefits and challenges to addressing the digital transformation of government, particularly with regards to the question of scaling responses. While its small size offers the potential to more rapidly embrace and cascade solutions throughout the public sector, it can be a challenge to access sufficient resources (whether financial, technical or human). One response to these challenges is an enthusiasm for Slovenia to participate actively in conversations at the European Union level where it is possible to benefit from the combined knowledge and insight of the member countries.

Although Slovenia is not a large country, it does not yet enjoy total high-speed Internet coverage, which clearly presents certain challenges from a digital inclusion point of view. There are 235 000 households in Slovenia but at the time of the review, 20 000 of them were not able to access high-speed Internet connections. EUR 30million of funding has been allocated to address rural connectivity and, despite some challenges with identifying suppliers, the ambition is that by 2022, 80% of properties will be within 200 metres of high-speed Internet infrastructure.

When governments design public services, they need to acknowledge the needs of society as a whole and not only target easy-to-reach audiences. The overall level of 21st century skills in society is an important foundation for efforts to achieve digital transformation as discussed in Chapter 3. This makes it important that Slovenia continues to invest in access for those who choose not to use digital technologies otherwise digital inequalities can be increased by “empowering the already empowered”. This means having to reflect the needs of more difficult to reach audiences or those situations, such as cross-border delivery, that introduce greater complexity. The ZPIZ experience discussed in Box 4.3 shows that, while the majority of a user base may still continue to access services in paper, there are still opportunities for digital transformation that enable an omnichannel approach of accessing services through any channel, at any point in the process. Services such as these which involve a more elderly user base are being given huge support by the Slovenian government’s partnership with Project Simbioza. This programme encourages intergenerational co-operation, volunteering, lifelong learning, social entrepreneurship, and socially responsible, social and ethical activities and has made a significant contribution to digital literacy across the whole of Slovenian society.

A final area to consider is the relationship between other sectors of society and the public sector, whether academia, civil society or the private sector. The survey of institutions indicated that only 20% of public sector bodies in Slovenia actively engage either academia or civil society in the governance of data, digital and technology projects. However, although there is a successfully established culture of transparency, recognised by the Right to Information Index placing Slovenia 5th globally (Global Right to Information, 2021[78]), the current assessment of CIVICUS (CIVICUS, 2021[79]) about the overall health of civic space was downgraded from “Open” to “Narrowed” in 2020, reflecting measures that have limited funding and access to non-governmental organisations as well as increased restrictions on press freedoms.

In contrast, the work of the private sector appears to be more actively engaged with the survey of institutions, indicating that for this sector the level of engagement is closer to 40%. Digital government has a big impact on the ease and effectiveness of “doing business”. The World Bank’s Doing Business Index (2020[80]) ranks Slovenia as 37th globally (and 23rd within OECD countries), and so there continue to be opportunities for the private and public sectors to work more effectively together in order to stimulate the economy and better meet the needs of all those in society. One of the most long-standing interventions in this respect is the work of Stop Bureaucracy (stopbirokraciji.gov.si) that, since 2005, has provided a single point of access for all stakeholders to contribute their ideas for improving services in the context of legislation or the business environment.

The second aspect of analysing and therefore understanding how to better meet those needs is the philosophical approach to service design and delivery and the extent to which it reflects the six ideas shown in Figure 4.3. Good design does not happen by accident and nor, for that matter, does bad design – leadership cultures determine whether or not the design of services is valued or not. Ultimately, if little effort goes into the design of a service and users get confused, make mistakes, or decide to abandon their efforts entirely, their need has not been met, and there is an increase in the burden on citizens to deal with the issue they had in the first place.

The most effective citizen experiences should therefore lead users through simple to complete processes that, where possible, re-use data to anticipate and proactively address aspects that might otherwise involve further interactions. This requires understanding the whole problem, which means working with those needing to use the service. It also means bringing policy, delivery and operations together in diverse, multi-disciplinary teams to ensure a common vision and co-ordinated development process, so that what might otherwise be silos works as a single team, focused on solving a particular problem together. Finally, it becomes important to adopt agile approaches that embrace uncertainty, continuous learning and improvement in order to keep adding value to the public and keeping them engaged (Figure 4.4). This can significantly contribute to the responsiveness of public services to the needs of the whole population and help to secure a positive perception of the government’s capacity to represent the needs of all.

The review heard that while there is vocal enthusiasm to “make services simple”, actually embedding this into the fabric of government is proving harder to achieve. As highlighted in the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[81]), leadership and political commitment are essential for the success of digital government efforts and this is true for service design and delivery. It is important for elected representatives, their appointees and senior government officials to share a vision for transforming services so that they are proactive, user-driven, and maximise the use of data and modern technology. That transformation relies on adopting a philosophy of service design and delivery and modelling the associated good practices (OECD, 2020[73]; OECD, 2021[13]). On this front the Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020 provided a strong statement of intent with its focus on inclusive, accessible and proactive government (Republic of Slovenia, 2015[7]).

Unfortunately, as discussed in earlier chapters, the leadership for digital government has been impacted by wider political change. The current period of time represents a more settled opportunity to accelerate some of these ideas and in doing so will take encouragement from the organisations that are advocates for a service design culture. However, as Figure 4.5 shows, they are among the minority, as only 19 of the 45 organisations surveyed during the review either have a formal strategy relating to the design, delivery and evaluation of government services or have initiatives in this respect. These organisations are taking their inspiration from the MPA but although they are responsible for a wider range of valuable enabling resources (as discussed later in this chapter), Slovenia has no model (whether formal or informal) for assuring quality against a service standard or equivalent, making the approach entirely reliant on local leadership and gradual osmosis.

To really transform a service, governments need to avoid focusing on individual interactions in isolation from understanding a whole problem. Neglecting to consider all users and the whole need can lead to addressing only a part of the issue and failing to unlock the potential that was imagined. To design services that fully respond to the needs of users, it is critical to map and understand how a need is currently being met and by whom. Instead of working from desk-based assumptions, understanding a whole problem gives a multi-faceted view of the problem as it really is and underpins the design response, whether that requires a fundamental redesign or only minor tweaks to the way government works.

Establishing a government-wide culture of user research committed to user experience helps to ensure an understanding of how different interventions contribute to, or detract from, the desired policy outcome. Taking this approach is important because if a service (whether newly developed or existing) is not immediately understood or seen as useful or trustworthy, people can get confused, make mistakes in their submission, or decide not to use it. When that happens, it increases the government's efforts to resolve any issues as well as inconvenience to the citizen in dealing with their initial need.

The review observed inconsistency with regards to the priority of user research in the design of services. Although eUprava and SPOT demonstrate an intent to simplify the entry point to government as a gateway to addressing whole problems, such as the one discussed in Box 4.4, limitations were observed in the organisational capacity to emphasise user research and in the inter-organisational co-operation to solve whole problems across organisational boundaries. Nevertheless, the Stop Bureaucracy initiative demonstrates that it is possible to address what may seem to be intractable problems. Stop Bureaucracy is a vehicle for citizens and businesses to express their frustrations and then see government work together in order to address them. Since its inception Stop Bureaucracy has saved an impressive EUR 350 million which reflects a 25% reduction in the identified levels of administrative burden. However, this team and the work of eUprava and SPOT did not appear to be as co-ordinated as they might. One approach could be to include Regulatory Impact Assessments (informed by the OECD’s Best Practice Principles (OECD, 2020[82]) as part of the user research process to understand and identify the whole problem and all its implications for users and the government.

Over time, public services can evolve in ways that lead to fragmented user journeys across different parts of government. Whether because “multi-channel” strategies have seen organisation specific digital or telephone channels developed separately from one another or because some organisations have closed their physical locations and others have not, users can find themselves having to visit multiple locations in order to address a particular need. This may also mean that interactions begun online cannot be completed in person and vice-versa. Transformed public services should be approached in a channel-agnostic fashion and understood as follows:

  • from when someone first attempts to solve a problem, through to its resolution (end to end)

  • on a continuum from user experience to the processes for back-office staff (external to internal)

  • across any and all of the channels involved (omnichannel) (OECD, 2020[73]).

Slovenia has been exploring the role of the Internet in delivering services for many years, and this is visible in the strong technological underpinnings for services in the country (as with the value of base registers referred to in Box 4.4). However, the review observed a resulting technology-driven, rather than user-driven approach to solving problems with conspicuous gaps in both language and practice of working to understand the needs and experiences of users.

GOV.SI represents a significant step towards consolidating the myriad of organisational websites and offering a single point of entry into the corporate information of government, with over 100 organisations (and counting) now served by the single domain’s common web infrastructure as well as content informed by a common editorial policy. This corporate information sits alongside dedicated resources for citizens (eUprava) and businesses (SPOT) operating as separate entities. However, these three sites are not the only entry points to services in Slovenia, as several sectoral and institutional sites continue to exist. Therefore, while the current strategy does help to rationalise user journeys, it could introduce challenges in resolving the end-to-end process for users as multiple entry points to government mean the experience for citizens is not as clear as it could be.

It is important to recognise that discussions about public service design and delivery in the digital age do not focus only on digital steps but remain mindful of the offline and in-person steps that are inevitably involved (see Box 4.5). One approach that can help to understand the landscape of a country’s services and the channel mix involved with providing them is a user research-based service catalogue mapping the data flows and user journeys from one service to another, identifying the channels through which a service is provided and measuring performance with both quantitative data (such as cost or frequency of access) and qualitative insights into the experience of users. In Slovenia, two-thirds of organisations provide services and 22 of them have their own catalogue of services, which creates an opportunity for the MPA and others to work together and create a common understanding of services across the country. This reference can help transform the overall experience of government by preserving and rationalising access while identifying ways for digital and non-digital channels to work in harmony.

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[81]) identifies the need to encourage engagement and participation of public, private and civil society stakeholders in policy making and public service design and delivery. It is complemented by the Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2017[84]) which calls on governments to move towards a “culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”.

In the Digital Government Index, Slovenia ranked highly for the “User-driven” (8th) and “Open by default” (7th) indicators. This openness to involving the public was evident in producing the Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020 (Republic of Slovenia, 2015[7]) with that process being open to all stakeholders within, across and beyond levels of government. Further support to these efforts is given by the Digital Coalition, a non-government group actively involved with the Governmental Council of Informatics Development.

Slovenia also has a good track record in providing opportunities for the public to shape the activity of government. These include the previously mentioned Stop Bureaucracy as well as I Propose (predlagam.vladi.si) offering a single point through which to communicate and send opinions, ideas, remarks or complaints about government services. Meanwhile, eUprava houses the e-Democracy content for the country including the route for the public to be able to provide feedback on proposed legislation and express their satisfaction with government services.

Indeed, the established transparency of “open by default” efforts in Slovenia is evident in the strength of the Open Government Data (OGD) agenda, with Slovenia ranking 10th in the 2019 edition of the OECD OURdata Index (OECD, 2020[16]). These efforts, discussed in more detail in Chapter 5, provide a template for how openness and engagement can be carried out from a legislative, governance, oversight and operational point of view. Alongside the rules, guidelines and standards and OPSI, the national open data website, OGD efforts have included dedicated websites publishing information about government procurement and public sector salaries as well as encouraging the OGD community through events such as hackathons.

At an organisational level, the MPA’s Guidelines for Information Solutions Development (Republic of Slovenia, 2018[85]) encourage teams to be proactive in terms of their design and feedback processes as well as requiring end users to be involved with the design and delivery of services. However, these guidelines are not mandatory and the execution of different organisations is not monitored or assessed and, therefore, relies on organisation specific activity to reflect their provisions.

There is no objection to the idea of involving the public in the process of transforming services in Slovenia but there are challenges to making this the default approach across the whole public sector. Indeed, despite the high “user-driven” and “open by default” scores in the Digital Government Index, the institution specific survey indicated that the majority of organisations were not engaging external stakeholders whether in terms of the private sector, academia, or civil society as seen in Figure 4.6. Among those that were, the examples were of traditional forms of engagement in terms of public communication, organising working groups, or engaging private sector suppliers to build consensus over technical standards and specifications.

Nevertheless, there were some more impressive examples expecting greater involvement from the public. The Information Security Administration of the Republic of Slovenia (Uprava za informacijsko varnost) had used design sessions and public consultation to develop the Cyber Security Strategy (Republic of Slovenia, 2016[20]) and the Information Security Act (Republic of Slovenia, 2018[21]) while SPIRIT, the Slovenian Business Development Agency, reported developing new services through design sessions with internal colleagues and focus groups with external users to understand their needs. The most notable example of ongoing co-delivery came from the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth (Urad Republike Slovenije za mladino) and the example of MLAD.SI which since 2011 has been a central resource for the youth sector. Organisations and young people, overseen by an editorial board led by the MaMa Youth Network, maintain the content of the site.

Figure 4.7 shows two paradigms for delivery. On the left, the process starts with 1) policy teams developing an approach before handing it to 2) the commissioning team that specifies deliverables for 3) an external supplier who, in turn, provides the “finished” service to 4) a fourth team to operate it. Taking policy decisions in isolation from delivery realities and supported by a separate operational model is the perfect recipe for silos and disconnection, causing problems for the people accessing the service and for government itself. Badly designed public services meet neither political objectives nor the needs of the public.

As discussed in Chapter 3, Slovenia is limited in its ability to develop its internal digital capabilities. Figure 4.8 shows that this has the effect of increasing reliance on external actors, which makes siloed-based delivery more likely. In one organisation whose systems provide support to more than 70% of Slovenian households, the internal digital team numbered just 13 and, while they were responsible for transformation, most of their time was spent on procurement and administering the relationship with external vendors. The majority of Slovenian organisations (26) outsource their delivery capability while 19 organisations have project-specific contracts with suppliers. Several organisations use external capability to build a service but hand the operation and maintenance over to in-house teams. Without an effective strategy for minimising the gap between policy, delivery and operations, there are risks to the quality of services and the capacity for government to iterate and improve over time.

The right-hand side of Figure 4.7 displays the digital government approach that recognises the importance of melding different disciplines together throughout the implementation lifecycle to ensure a common vision and co-ordinated development process. Transformed public services rely on diverse, multi-disciplinary teams from different backgrounds and with different perspectives working across organisational boundaries (as seen in the example from Argentina in Box 4.6). Taking a cross-discipline approach and involving those from across the public sector helps to better understand the needs of all users.

As discussed in Chapter 3 the skills situation in Slovenia requires strategic commitment to make it easier to assemble multi-disciplinary teams and collaborate across the public sector. Coalition government is a hallmark of Slovenian democracy and, during the review, the team working on this peer review heard that sometimes the circumstance of a coalition may mean certain ministries have less interest in the coherence of government as a whole, preferring instead to focus on their own, narrower agenda. This can lead to gaps when it comes to projects involving multiple stakeholders. The OECD Framework for Digital Talent and Skills in the Public Sector (applied to Slovenia in Chapter 3) proposes that governments recognise “service professionals” whose role is to take ownership of the end-to-end user experience and wield the political, administrative and financial authority to bring the necessary actors around the table to address a whole problem (OECD, 2021[13]). To complement these roles, an organisation could be given the responsibility of co-ordinating oversight and governance. The MPA would be well placed to play this role initially but over time the expectation could be that defined guidelines and roles could see one of the organisations involved in the specific service taking that responsibility.

To support this process the 24 surveyed organisations which indicated that they co-ordinate with other institutions could be encouraged to continue doing so; at the same time, steps could be taken to address the barriers that limit cross-government collaboration for the other 21. Initiatives such as the United Kingdom’s Digital and Technology Leaders Network provide a model for how to build a collective vision for delivering great digital services with the right technology (UK Cabinet Office, n.d.[87]). Through training, socialisation and peer-to-peer support, a coherent and collaborative approach to the design and delivery of public services fit for the digital age can become second nature for government as a whole, rather than a niche pursuit of digital and IT professionals.

The final aspect of the philosophy for service design and delivery in the digital age is to adopt an agile approach to the ongoing iteration and delivery of the services that are produced (in line with the model featured in Figure 4.4). This approach contrasts with more traditional “waterfall” methods that accompany the siloed model of delivery referenced in Figure 4.7.The Agile methodology embraces uncertainty and operates on the expectation of continuously learning and improving in order to prioritise adding value to users. By starting small with phases designed to build understanding through exploration, teams can research, prototype, test and learn about the needs of their users before committing to building a real service, allowing them to fail quickly and correct course in response to what they find. Successfully delivering in this way relies on ensuring that the culture of approaching digital government reflects leadership and vision, understands whole problems, designs services from end-to-end, involves the public and delivers in a multi-disciplinary and collaborative fashion.

As has been noted, many public services in Slovenia are provided through commercial relationships with external suppliers. Drawing on external technical expertise can be an attractive route to offsetting capacity constraints and limits on the availability of internal skills, in particular to increase capacity in the short- and medium-term. However, this can lead to an unhelpful separation between policy, delivery and operations which can limit the capacity to iterate and improve a service. This observation has shaped the MPA Guidelines on Procuring IT Solutions that advise using the procurement process to prioritise agile solutions and ensure an inclusive approach to testing services (Republic of Slovenia, 2017[88]). Where external suppliers are involved it can be beneficial to explore ways to work closely together, whether through sharing offices or virtual workspaces, as has been seen to the benefit of the GOV.SI and e-Uprava teams.

Across the philosophical underpinnings for service design and delivery in Slovenia, there is much to commend in terms of both the efforts the MPA has made to introduce different ways of thinking to the government and the important results being experienced in places where these ideas have taken root. However, overall, there is generally patchy progress when set against the overall ambition and the challenge remains how to disseminate these ideas, culture and practice throughout the government as a whole, to become the default and not the exception.

The transformation of public service design and delivery means redesigning public services. At the level of a single service, this may be an achievable ambition but, extrapolated across the hundreds of services provided by government, it is not. Governments, particularly of small countries such as Slovenia, do not have the time, money or human capital to work through each service individually. Therefore, part of the solution for accelerating this process lies in reusable resources and tools. There is a risk in assuming that the answer is solely a question of technology to speed up how an offline process can be made available online. However, this would proliferate a culture of e-government, not digital government, and see no associated transformation of the vision to better meet citizen needs, no matter how high profile (or otherwise) the service in question.

Striking this balance between practical tools and culture-shaping resources is the starting point for the idea of “Government as a Platform”, on which measure Slovenia ranks a respectable 11th in the Digital Government Index (OECD, 2020[14]; OECD, 2020[15]). Government as a Platform ecosystems help teams to focus on things that are unique to their users rather than devoting effort to challenges others have already addressed. A measure of domestic success is that these resources are used at scale, at every level and in every sector of government with minimal central intervention. Developing this ecosystem of enablers for service design and delivery is particularly important for the smallest organisations in a country that would otherwise be at the end of the queue for sufficient and dedicated funding or capability to carry out “true” digital transformation. As such, the best examples of Government as a Platform ecosystems are not restricted only to public servants but are open to all those working on designing, implementing and operating policy and the services it produces, whether from the private sector, civil society or elsewhere.

Seven different areas (see Figure 4.9) have been identified as contributing to helping to not only effect a change in culture and philosophy but accelerate and transform the capacity for designing and delivering public services that meet user needs. This chapter will conclude by considering the situation in Slovenia as it concerns best practices and guidelines; governance, spending and assurance in the context of service design and delivery; the channel strategy; the common components and tools; and digital inclusion. The discussion of data can be found in Chapter 5 and the discussion of talent and skills in Chapter 3.

As Slovenia considers its new digital strategy, there is a vital moment to reflect on short, medium and long-term ambitions for realising the potential in each of these areas. Above all, the strategy needs to acknowledge and address the need for the strategy itself in terms of authority, mandate and resources to develop an interconnected ecosystem, and not a collection of discrete individual parts. Slovenia is a small country where the centre can exert power, but there was a sense during the review that this influence had not been used as effectively as it might – one earlier attempt at establishing a shared service model for technology was criticised because the benefits promised on paper were replaced by frustration and disappointment in the eventual outcome. The MPA has taken the lead in developing resources to support transformation but there were calls from participants in the review to move beyond an advisory role and take bolder, confident and more directive leadership to shape the culture and practice of government.

Enabling service design and delivery is about more than technology, and this first area can be highly influential in helping to scale digital transformation by encouraging public servants to learn from one another and understand “what good looks like”. Curated by the centre but developed by distributed communities of practice, materials such as style guides, service manuals and other documentation offer wisdom and insight into the practice of digital government that can help teams to deliver high-quality public services that meet the needs of their users.

Slovenia has a healthy range of guidance materials for its service delivery teams to draw on. The National Interoperability Framework1 is dedicated to publishing interoperability solutions and products of the public sector that achieves this ambition of sharing best practice and guidelines and is in line with other OECD efforts such as Colombia’s Arquitectura TI or Mexico’s Wikiguías. The catalogue of over 100 different resources includes technical solutions, recommendations and mandatory guidance. These detail the rules that have to be obeyed by institutions for their services to be hosted on government infrastructure. The most important contribution is arguably the Guidelines for Information Solutions Development (Republic of Slovenia, 2018[85]), covering usability, accessibility and proactive public service delivery although not how teams should go about identifying their users and how best to engage them. These guidelines are complemented by materials including the Technical Guidelines for Information Solutions Development (Republic of Slovenia, 2017[89]), the Guidelines on procuring IT solutions (Republic of Slovenia, 2017[88]), the Project Management Methodology in the Public Administration (Republic of Slovenia, 2016[9]) and the Manual for the Opening of Public Sector Information (Republic of Slovenia, 2016[90]) among others. However, despite the existence of these materials, Figure 4.10 shows that there are unfortunate gaps in the recognition of them with only 10 of the 45 organisations recognising guidelines relating to the engagement of users in the service and policy design process. Slovenia may consider drawing inspiration from the United Kingdom’s Service Manual, where different elements of advice and guidance are brought together as a HTML resource designed to guide teams through the material in order for it to be as accessible and re-usable as possible.

Not all best practice needs to come from the centre, which makes it important to create communities of practice, reflecting the multi-disciplinary model discussed earlier, where practitioners can share their experiences and collectively develop a shared understanding and approach to leading the conversation forward in their specific professional domain. This can encourage more proactive storytelling about what people are working on and how. A good example of this is the community around GOV.SI, where the process of migrating corporate information has seen the development of a single editorial policy embraced by the over 100 organisations it now hosts and their content teams. While the project to migrate to GOV.SI is time-limited, the plan is to maintain this group when the project finishes in order to help improve the quality of content on an ongoing basis.

Because government consists of hundreds of organisations delivering hundreds of public services, it is impossible for one organisation to directly manage the design and delivery of all public services. While guidance is valuable for providing a conceptual grounding and practical wisdom, if there is not yet an embedded philosophy for service design and delivery that naturally exhibits those behaviours, then more active oversight may be needed until they are the default. It is therefore essential to establish a clear and shared definition of “good” in respect to public services and develop a credible approach to quality assurance. Such efforts need to be built around identifying clear decision-making and co-ordination responsibilities complemented by visibility and compliance controls covering spending and delivery activity.

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[81]) recognises business cases as a critical tool for sustainable digital government. Their associated processes need to align with wider service design activity and provide access to funding for research and prototype activities. As agile delivery anticipates the continuous iteration of a service, it is important for business case and funding processes to allow for teams to pivot away from the original proposal once they have better understood the problem they are addressing. One concern heard during the review was that the current funding model for digital government prioritised individually separate and distinct projects, rather than allowing for more strategic development to address broader needs over a longer period of time.

One of the consequences of frequent changes to the political leadership of Slovenia and by extension organisational leadership has been the country’s business case model. This model was developed inclusively with the participation of public sector organisations, public servants and academia; it set a clear expectation for technology projects with a budget in excess of EUR 20 000 to align with strategies concerning digital identity, interoperability, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and other standards in service design and delivery. However, in practice the OECD mission heard that this was not currently enforced. As such, Slovenia does not have an established assurance process linked to financial spending to guarantee that service teams are following guidelines or standards. Nevertheless, ongoing practices, such as the six-monthly report on implementing the budget to highlight benefits for both the public sector and service users, indicate an openness and capacity to provide such scrutiny over government spending.

Although the guidelines discussed in the previous section are a useful starting point, it is problematic that, as Slovenia has a healthy range of guidance materials for its service delivery teams to draw on. The National Interoperability Framework is dedicated to publishing interoperability solutions and products of the public sector that achieves this ambition of sharing best practice and guidelines and is in line with other OECD efforts such as Colombia’s Arquitectura TI or Mexico’s Wikiguías. The catalogue of over 100 different resources includes technical solutions, recommendations and mandatory guidance. These detail the rules that have to be obeyed by institutions for their services to be hosted on government infrastructure. The most important contribution is arguably the Guidelines for Information Solutions Development (Republic of Slovenia, 2018[85]), covering usability, accessibility and proactive public service delivery although not how teams should go about identifying their users and how best to engage them. These guidelines are complemented by materials including the Technical Guidelines for Information Solutions Development (Republic of Slovenia, 2017[89]), the Guidelines on procuring IT solutions (Republic of Slovenia, 2017[88]), the Project Management Methodology in the Public Administration (Republic of Slovenia, 2016[9]) and the Manual for the Opening of Public Sector Information (Republic of Slovenia, 2016[90]) among others. However, despite the existence of these materials, Figure 4.10 shows that there are unfortunate gaps in the recognition of them with only 10 of the 45 organisations recognising guidelines relating to the engagement of users in the service and policy design process. Slovenia may consider drawing inspiration from the United Kingdom’s Service Manual, where different elements of advice and guidance are brought together as a HTML resource designed to guide teams through the material in order for it to be as accessible and re-usable as possible.

Figure 4.10 shows, so few organisations recognise them as being relevant for assuring the quality and consistency of digital, data and technology projects during design and prior to launch. This indicates that greater authority is needed for the MPA to oversee and actively assess the quality of delivery against these guidelines. The review team heard the desire from several participants that the centre could exert more direct leadership in introducing a “service standard” against which services could be measured. Slovenia has a strong track record in brokering inclusive agreements through participatory practices, and the development and instituting of a standard would lend itself well to such a consensus-based approach.

The way in which different channels are designed and resourced plays a critical role in enabling teams to develop public services that respond effectively to the needs of their users. As has been discussed already, the evolution of different channels can leave behind a challenging legacy that might mean citizens have multiple channels to choose from but, when they do they find them operating as silos. In a situation where there is no single entry to government, it is vital to establish a clear omnichannel strategy (with the necessary mandate) to set direction and ensure that, no matter the channel someone chooses, they will always be able to access a consistent, joined-up and high-quality service. For members of the European Union, there is another dimension to this challenge, as prompted by the Single Digital Gateway project (as discussed earlier in Box 4.1)

The COVID-19 pandemic had many implications for daily life with one of those being the closure of many face-to-face locations for accessing public services. Prior to the pandemic, and during the review mission to Ljubljana, the interview with the Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Public Legal Records and Related Services (Agencija Republike Slovenije za javnopravne evidence in storitve, AJPES) covered an interesting discussion about the interplay between their digital presence, and their face-to-face service locations. These 160 registration offices, of which 12 were run directly by AJPES, allowed for citizens to complete their transactions, and they were overwhelmingly the channel of choice, with only 11% of all activity happening online.

Slovenia does not currently have a clear omnichannel strategy. In terms of the digital space, there are impressive efforts taking place with regards to GOV.SI, eUprava, SPOT and OPSI against a strategy of distinguishing between corporate information, citizen services, business services and open data, with signposting between them. Until recently, there had also been limited efforts to extend co-operation to include local public services, but it was encouraging to see that the first municipal services have been included in eUprava and SPOT. Nevertheless, although much corporate information has migrated to GOV.SI, there are legacy services, information and micro-sites served through older domains and infrastructure as well as those entities that continue to operate independently, even while being core to the activity of meeting the needs of either citizens or businesses. The current strategy is to offer this multiplicity of channels, but the existence of these multiple sites involves a greater overhead of co-ordination and challenges in terms of solving whole problems and designing end-to-end services as well as the approach to standards and quality, because the starting point is already one of divergence and autonomy rather than federated collaboration.

The provision of building blocks to help teams deliver services like hosting and infrastructure, digital identity, notifications, and payments is an established part of Slovenia’s strategy to simplify the integration effort for service teams and make the citizen’s user experience as proactive and seamless as possible. The specifics of different elements are discussed in this section, with the approach relying on two important frameworks. Firstly, the base registers framework (discussed in more detail in Chapter 5) provides the data infrastructure that sits behind common components. One part refers to trust services and the other part to the access of data contained in registers. Over time, different modules have been developed to respond to the needs of individual organisations, but they have proven valuable and been disseminated for wider usage. Secondly, the National Interoperability Framework2 catalogues valuable components and technical tools that can help service teams enhance their services.

These efforts by the MPA are recognised as providing a lot of valuable resources in terms of managing user identities, accounts and authorizations; trust services; security schemes; access to various data sources; document management; and other systems administration resources. The building blocks and resources are not mandatory but these services show early signs of being widely adopted – 1 in 3 organisations in the Slovenian public sector re-use technical solutions provided by another part of government (see Figure 4.8) while 21 out of the 45 organisations identified that base registers were the primary source for the data they use to provide services (see Figure 4.11). However, there are some high profile organisations preferring to operate independently and developing their own websites, service channels, services and applications that in many cases duplicate the resources made available by the MPA. Nevertheless, early indications underline the potential for the centralised provision of common components in Slovenia but that further strategic thought is needed to consider the mandate of the team operating these components as well as how they are funded and resourced to understand the needs of teams across government in order to continuously improve the user experience for those who adopt, and address the reasons why others do not.

Slovenia has also demonstrated an openness and willingness to work with and embrace initiatives of the European Union that improve cross-border provision of services, with 14 out of the 45 organisations reporting that they had worked on needs that cut across borders. In general, these services are not yet high-profile examples of direct involvement from the public but rather underlying government-to-government interactions that take place behind the scenes to enable the subsequent delivery of a service, as with the example of death data exchange in Box 4.7. Given that Slovenia has the underlying architecture in place, and the prior experience in addressing this need, it will be interesting to see what becomes possible as this agenda grows in maturity, particular as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for greater portability of identity and service provision to the fore.

Arguably the most critical component in better supporting the design and delivery of government services is its web infrastructure. Regardless of how user-driven a service design and delivery philosophy might be, without reliable and secure hosting that can scale to meet spikes in demand, any service that relies on digital or data to function will be useless. This need is particularly acute for small organisations for which the costs of being responsible for their own infrastructure would be prohibitive.

One of the longest-standing common components has been the provision of government hosting to obviate the need for individual organisations to house and manage IT systems. It was originally conceived as a private intranet networking 600 locations in Slovenia; the focus is now on using cloud computing to reduce the overheads involved. This strategy is designed not only to continue offering the same benefits of shared infrastructure at a lower cost but to help stimulate a new ecosystem of public service providers and achieve a standardised approach to the security of government and citizen data. The Slovenian State Cloud (DRO) infrastructure provides secure and robust hosting for upwards of 400 different information systems in Slovenia and is regarded as a strong asset by many institutions. More recent additions have been the Hybrid Cloud (HRO) offering solutions to the public sector that allow for blending the needs for cloud-based and on-premises hosting and the Innovative-Development Cloud (IRO) which will serve as a development platform for educational establishments and start-ups. By the end of 2024, a new data centre (DRO Next) is planned, under Slovenia’s resilience and recovery plan.

A further element for accelerating the development of services is data. Chapter 5 provides a detailed analysis of Slovenian efforts to establish a data-driven public sector, but a significant part of those efforts are the tools, platforms and resources to support greater access to and sharing of data, both within the public sector and via Open Government Data. As discussed above, the base registers are a critical part of this process, as is the TRAY (Pladenj) platform and its associated ecosystem (see Box 5.1).

The MPA has introduced a central document management system called KRPAN. The KRPAN platform is designed as a flexible and easily scalable solution that will be continuously kept up to date in order to support the management of documentary material within the public sector. The modular nature of KRPAN means it can support growing adoption and the development of additional functionality including the capture of physical material, centralised numbering, signing of documents, validation and shipping of documents. KRPAN securely records the whole range of documents which government works with including eInvoices and other financial accounting documents to enable government employees to work with documents more quickly and with greater efficiency.

Payments is another area where countries are approaching a common challenge by offering centrally provided services to make it easy for citizens to pay government, such as pagoPA in Italy, PaySG in Singapore and GOV.UK Pay in the United Kingdom. Slovenia has been considering this common need for longer than these other countries, with the shared resource to provide this capability being a well-established one available for other government services to consume. Overseen by the Ministry of Finance, but operating independently from it, the Public Payments Administration is responsible for providing a common component that enables teams to easily implement the functionality to take payment from a wide range of sources, whether mobile payments, card processing or bank transfers

Confirmation e-mails are one of the most ubiquitous parts of any service interaction. They hint at the potential for a more proactive and user-driven approach to notifications; timely and accurate messaging can reassure users that their need is being met before they experience any anxiety about checking its status, saving them emotional strain but also the overhead of picking up the phone or visiting a website to find information. Making it easy for services to send digital notifications, whether by e-mail, SMS or via messaging products can be transformative, even without revisiting any other step in the process.

In November 2020, the MPA launched the SI-CeV electronic mailbox to reduce the overhead for institutions and citizens in exchanging documents. Organisations are able to deliver documents directly, securely and electronically to a citizen’s personal digital mailbox, accessed using Slovenia’s digital identity solutions. Although the cost of physical mail when compared with other methods is higher, especially when addressed by individual services, Slovenia may not wish to abandon it entirely. The United Kingdom found, in the course of developing its notifications platform that economies of scale can exist for printing and mailing that make investment worthwhile in order to reflect the preferences, and context, of users. Since May 2016, GOV.UK Notify has sent 11 million letters, a small but significant figure when compared to the 2.3 billion emails and 500 million text messages in the same period (Government Digital Service, n.d.[91]).

Verified identity is the basis for accessing essential public and private services such as voting, financial transactions, government aid and health care. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of digital mechanisms for identity proofing to the fore. Successfully addressing the challenge of digital identity involves several issues including different technologies and levels of identity assurance, fragmented user journeys, legacy solutions, portability of identity across borders or with devices, and the importance of trust.

The starting point for Slovenian efforts for digital identity began in 2000 with digital certificates enabling the first electronic identity and electronic signature solutions. Since then the country has attempted several approaches and iterated the overall strategy with the result that the future direction is shaped by legacy solutions and experiences. Digital identity in Slovenia is a work in progress. Currently, private and public sector actors can authenticate users by issuing digital certificates to enable access to both public and private sector services. Looking to the future, Slovenia expects to unify experiences under the SI-PASS brand. SI-PASS embraces a mobile-first model to provide full identification, electronic signatures and authentication for all users, with the ambition to eventually allow for the replacement of the legacy of digital certificates. To achieve this, the SI-PASS ecosystem offers different modules for integration that address the different needs which teams might have for authenticating their users.

In the data supplied by Slovenia as part of the Digital Government Index, 50% of central and federal government services were reportedly using digital identity, with the majority accessed via eUprava or SPOT. As of May 2021, SI-PASS data indicated it was available on over 45 different websites and had 300 000 users who had authenticated in excess of 7 million times. Figure 4.12, shows a remaining gap in institutional adoption with only 16 out of 45 institutions using SI-PASS and 4 using their own solution. One organisation reported they would migrate to SI-PASS, while another continues to develop an in-house solution. As with other areas of central provision, the value of MPA efforts to address a particular set of needs is at risk of being undermined by the lack of oversight and assurance to avoid duplication of effort and fragmentation of solutions.

Slovenia benefits from having a strong commitment to an agreed solution to the question of digital identity with further legislation being prepared that will support the use of SI-PASS as a platform for the private sector. As well as growing momentum for its usage across Slovenia, SI-PASS forms the basis for the country’s participation in the European Union’s eIDAS programme for enabling cross-border portability of identity in support of the Digital Single Market. With adoption of SI-PASS increasing due to greater opportunities to make use of the solution, as well as the implications of COVID-19, Slovenia is well positioned to combine this common component with other strengths in data interoperability to unlock the possibilities of user-driven and proactive services.

The final common challenge facing service teams is how best to handle the information supplied by users. This question is not a new one and in the 1960s, the United Kingdom government published a book on The Design of Forms in Government Departments (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1962[92]) that is out of step with modern technology but as relevant today on the process as it was then.3 In the analogue world this need was met by paper forms and the e-government era then saw online experiences being created that often meant giving users access to a “fillable PDF”. In the age of digital government, new expectations have been set about how to approach the design of user interactions. In this context, it is important to strike a balance between tools that can easily publish a service to the Internet and the associated quality, standards and expectations of how the service works.

Governments are exploring “low code” systems, that use a visual interface to construct end-to-end services out of smaller constituent parts, complemented by design systems that collate re-usable user interface components, design patterns, accessibly written guides and the guidance to support implementation that ensure service teams can build in a consistent fashion.4 In Slovenia, this need is met by the Electronic Procedures Building Block (Jedro elektronskih postopkov, JEP) with the intention of allowing for public servants to manage digital services from design to live with minimal programming knowledge while being user-friendly, trusted, and working across platforms in a way that re-uses all the elements discussed previously.

JEP operates on the basis of initially understanding the design of the process that is needed and then using the building blocks to convert that into a digital experience. By re-using the existing components, all of the quality control that goes into their design is replicated, and the benefits are scaled across the services developed using JEP. Services can be assembled that handle authentication, data capture, provision of evidence (either through documents or in reference to existing data sources), e-signatures where necessary, payments and notifications throughout the process. With the right philosophy of service design and delivery and the necessary support to create high-quality user experiences, a tool like JEP has the potential to support the Government as a Platform ambition of scaling the delivery of public services while retaining trust and quality.

After the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be easy to assume that the Internet has become ubiquitous for all. However, the impact of the pandemic may well turn out to have worsened the challenges for those lacking the necessary skills or requiring additional, in-person support to have their needs met. The perceived benefits of transforming public service design and delivery do not automatically apply to everyone and necessitate a focus on the needs for connectivity, digital literacy and accessibility to ensure “digital divides” are not exacerbated. This makes it important to build strong links between the agendas for digital government, digital infrastructure and the digital economy. It was encouraging to hear that, while this had not always been the case, steps were now being taken to align these areas of work.

As discussed earlier in this chapter, although Slovenia is a small country, there are challenges in ensuring high-speed connectivity for all residents. The current period of government investment has the ambition that, by 2022, 80% of all households will be within 200 metres of high-speed Internet infrastructure.

Efforts to close the digital divide in Slovenia were targeted in terms of gender, age groups, education and on those segments of the population living in geographically remote locations. This breadth of focus is valuable but must remain a priority agenda as future strategies are developed to ensure that nobody is left behind by the opportunities that digital offers. There remains a need to support citizens with the necessary training and the peer review team were impressed by the partnership with Simbioza which has taken an intergenerational approach to connect young volunteers with elderly citizens through courses, workshops and support designed to increase digital literacy. Furthermore, encouraging work was reported from the education sector where, through the EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020, partnerships among schools, universities, public institutes, public research organisations and other stakeholders are supporting the development of skills and, in particular, digital skills. This is further supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport running several projects to improve digital skills of pupils, adults and teachers. Slovenia is fortunate to have networks of enthusiastic volunteers providing support and initial progress from the education sector, but it is important to develop a longer-term, systemic and sustainable approach to digital skills and digital literacy in society, as discussed in Chapter 3.

Finally, on accessibility, there was fairly good awareness of the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications Act (Republic of Slovenia, 2018[93]) which reflects in national law the Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102) that came into force in December 2016.


Data is an important enabler in the context of the ecosystem to support the design and delivery of transformed public services. Among the many benefits an effective model of data governance offers, one of those having the greatest impact on citizens is its role in delivering services and how it allows for proactive and joined-up delivery. Governments can avoid maintaining multiple datasets, handling requests for data and requiring citizens to supply their information multiple times.

A more detailed treatment of data is covered in Chapter 5 but, from a practical point of view, Slovenia is well equipped because central databases exist and they contain high-quality data, with the TRAY interoperability platform enabling the exchange of data between many different parts of the government. When it comes to designing new services, the fact that data is well provisioned from the start means that teams are able to accelerate their development. In line with much of the European Union, Slovenia has taken steps to adopt the once only principle. While there are no formal requirements to enforce this, the General Procedure Administration Act (Zakon o splošnem upravnem postopku, ZUP) (Republic of Slovenia, 1999[18]) provides a legislative basis for obliging public officials to use public registers to access information regarding citizens or businesses where that information is available.

The digital government and service design model represents a paradigm shift that means government does not always have the necessary talent and skills at its disposal. A strategic approach to the talent and skills needed for a digital government involves creating an encouraging environment, defining the necessary skills and taking steps to source a suitable workforce (OECD, 2021[13]).

A more detailed treatment of talent and skills is covered in Chapter 3 but Slovenia has a specific strategy or policy to develop digital skills among the public service workforce and gives some focus to raising the digital competency level of civil servants (Republic of Slovenia, 2015[7]). However, digital skills themselves are not as yet a core component of the skills framework for the public sector and are not a requirement in the hiring process.

There are also constraints on the ease with which the Slovenian public sector can recruit the professionals that it needs to be able to transform its approach to services. This means that there is, and will continue to be, a reliance on outsourced contracts to secure the necessary capacity to cope with the ever-increasing demand for digital transformation of public services. Although the current procurement culture does not encourage innovation, efforts are underway to revise this. During the review it was suggested that public private partnerships are an underused opportunity that could help to increase the public sector’s capacity to deliver while giving greater influence to government to ensure that the outcome of the partnerships contribute to developing the philosophy and the enablers for service design and delivery discussed in this chapter.

← 1. https://nio.gov.si/nio/vstopna.nio

← 2. https://nio.gov.si/nio/vstopna.nio

← 3. Nick Colley, a former member of GOV.UK’s Design System team has transformed this publication for the web at https://design-of-forms.online

← 4. Some examples include Argentina: http://argob.github.io/poncho/, Australia: https://designsystem.gov.au, Brazil: http://dsgov.estaleiro.serpro.gov.br/, Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/government/about/design-system.html, Singapore: https://designsystem.isomer.gov.sg, the United States: https://v2.designsystem.digital.gov and the United Kingdom: https://design-system.service.gov.uk/

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