What you can learn from a tiny European country

Jesse Meijers

One of the most persistent prejudices around is that governments, both local as well as national, implement changes at an excruciatingly slow pace. Not because a government does not desire change but because, not unlike large companies, governments tend to get limited by legacy.

Things have been “going the way they are” for such a long time that change requires more than just a new process. Still, there is an example out there that defies this prejudice: Estonia. Yes, this tiny country sets the example for both governments as companies.

Nicknamed E-stonia, this country has only been an independent republic since 1991 and since then, has set high goals in terms of market liberalization. To facilitate this, successful digitalization was a key pillar in their strategy. Let’s take a closer look at their approach and what organizations can learn from it.

Combining services

Estonia has a view on their citizens that many companies can take as an example. The government is there to make life easier. Its job is to facilitate the inhabitants of Estonia in their personal, as well as their business life. To achieve all this, the country has implemented Government as a Service.

One of the examples is their national ID card. It is not only a means of identification. It is, among other things, a public transport card, health insurance card, way to do your taxes and sign digital documents. You can use it to start a company, vote, take care of inheritances and so on. And before you say, “I can use my ID card for many of those things too”, all the before mentioned actions, are possible or manageable online.

In terms of activities or services you need the government for, you can arrange 99% online. In order to get married, though, you still need to leave the house.

Think of what this would mean for a company. Providing your customer with a way to skip long waits by making relevant information available to them. You empower the customer and come across as a customer friendly organization at the same time.

Facilitating citizens

Estonia has certain principles that the government has to live by. For example, they can only ask for certain information once. When a citizen has provided the information to (a branch of) their government, the different branches need to first ask for the info internally, before they can bother a citizen with it. This principle, in which they put their “customer” first, in the end, prevents double work for the government as well as the inhabitants.

Companies, when looking at their own processes should also always think from a customer’s perspective when digitalizing. This might not be the easiest route but, as E-stonia proves, it is a highly effective one.

Author: Dagmar Ingelse

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