Offerman Consulting
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Finnish city of Helsinki migrates municipal services to web portal

Author: Adrian Offerman

Case Abstract

The Finnish city of Helsinki aims to provide the municipal services to its citizens in a digital form as much as possible. The Electronic Transaction Service portal already provides over fifty services to the citizens. Another sixty electronic services and about 200 printable forms are still hosted on the Helsinki website.

The transition is an ongoing process. The hardest part of a migration is the process re-engineering of the service. However, this effort does pay off: if both front and back end of the service are digitalised, benefits and savings can be seen in shortened service productions times and service production with less personel.

Case Description

The Finnish city of Helsinki aims to provide the municipal services to its citizens in a digital form as much as possible. Their Electronic Transaction Service asiointi.hel.fi allows citizens to fill out and submit electronic applications and to register for courses, for example. Services from various municipal departments are available at the central portal and can be used 24/7. The platform supports Finnish, Swedish and English.

Citizens wil have to register using their bank account or mobile credentials in order to use Vetuma, the public administration's joint citizen identification and payment service.

At this moment, over fifty services are available to citizens:

  • Business premises and land areas:
    • Application for business premises,
    • Terrace license application;
  • Culture:
    • Enrolment for the Cultural Office's courses;
  • Environment:
    • Notification of food premises,
    • Notification of noise,
    • Notification of temporary food sales;
  • Event applications:
    • Event announcement;
  • Grants:
    • Board of the Finnish Adult Education Centre,
    • City Board,
    • City Executive Office, for immigrant associations,
    • several cultural grants,
    • several educational grants,
    • Environmental affairs,
    • Personnel affairs,
    • Rescue services,
    • several grants for Sports services,
    • several grants for Youth work services;
  • Health care:
    • Dental care eService,
    • Health care appointment booking,
    • Health care forms and ePrescription renewal request,
    • Health care messaging services,
    • Personal information of health care clients;
  • Housing and construction:
    • Application for council housing,
    • Application for a single-family house plot,
    • Queue number application for right-of-occupancy apartments,
    • Service for selling architectural drawings, ARSKA,
    • Notification about a risk of an accident to the Rescue Department;
  • Animals:
    • Dog declaration;
  • Social and family services:
    • Application for day care or pre-school,
    • Social assistance application;
  • Sports:
    • Enrolment for the Sports Department's courses;
  • Teaching and education:
    • Requesting copies of certificates
  • Transport:
    • Rectification request of a parking fine.

After registration, documents and messages are be left in the personal eServices folders. Users can:

  • view their own transactions,
  • check what has happened in their matter and its current processing stage,
  • see the decisions and agreements related to their transactions,
  • save drafts of forms into their folder and continue filling them out later,
  • contact the person who is handling their matter, send messages and enquiries, and supplement documents.

Businesses and other organisations can use an alternative entrance as well, listing the municipal services specifically aimed at corporate users. They are required to log in using the identification and authorisation system Katso. This is the Finnish joint electronic identification that is also used to access the online services of the Tax Administration, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), and Customs.

Project Size and Implementation

The Electronic Transaction Service portal has its origins in the IT department and the IT strategy of the city. It was launched in 2009.

The development of new e-services is an ongoing process and depending on the department responsible. According to Päivi Helanto, Project Manager and Head of the e-Service Program at the Helsinki City Executive Office, the trend is towards two-way services that are digitalised both at the front and back end. This results in more complexity and a longer time span for development. So it's hard to put this transition on an exact timeline.

I think that we are currently standing only at the beginning of the digitalisation process. The services already available on the new platform are definately not the easiest ones. Probably the hardest part of a migration is the process re-engineering of the service. The more complex the process is, the more need there is for integration between systems, the more suppliers are involved, and the more complex the development of the new e-service is.

According to Helanto, however, this investment pays off: The 'application for council housing', for example, took one year to simplify the procedure and to develop. As a result, we managed to save two man years already in the first year.

Impact, Innovation and Results

The city of Helsinki currently hosts another sixty electronic services and about 200 printable forms on its website. Eventually, all of Helsinki's municipal services will become available at the Electronic Transaction Service portal. In the transition, the city aims to make transactions easier and cut down unnecessary processing stages. Eventually, the service will become a "one-window service point" through which all the electronic services can be reached safely by a single login, 24 hours a day. According to the city, the Electronic Transaction Service portal improves the interaction between citizens and administration, and gives the residents more opportunities to influence the handling of their own matters.

Customers find our services convenient and time saving in all cases, says Helanto. If the back-end is digitalised too, benefits and savings can be seen in shortened service productions times and service production with less personel. We also put a lot of effort in shortening the development process of the services. For example, we have created our own standard for building e-forms.

With regard to the development of e-services, Helsinki is far ahead of other cities in Finland and Europe. We do co-operate with other Finnish cities and with ministries. The service 'queue number application for right-of-occupancy apartments', for example, is built and provided by Helsinki, but it is used in thirteen other cities in Finland as well.