City of Stockholm Shows off its Leading Citizen Services in Collaboration with Cisco for Summit
January 18, 2007
By Jason Deign, News@Cisco
Around 320 of the world's top government decision makers got more than they bargained for at last month's Public Services Summit @ Nobel Week.
They arrived at the event, co-hosted by the City of Stockholm and Cisco®, to learn about new ways of delivering citizen services, only to find that some of the most novel applications were already in progress on the streets of the Swedish capital.
Stepping outside the summit venue, delegates could visit a school where wireless laptop-toting students take interactive tours through history; a project where technology makes up for the handicaps of elderly people; and a town where citizens access government services on their TVs.
These initiatives were just three of many on show in an afternoon of 'study visits' for Summit attendees who had come from across the globe in search of technological inspiration.
Stockholm is not the only city in the world to champion new and advanced public service delivery methods, of course.
But the sheer array of projects underway made it a particularly fitting location for the Public Services Summit, which, in its fifth year, has become internationally recognized as a unique forum for sharing best practice among government and not-for-profit executives.
And on this occasion it was especially appropriate since the Summit focused on 'the connected republic'; in other words, how to create network-based services that have real value for citizens.
Although technically a constitutional monarchy, in just about every other way Sweden meets the connected republic ideal admirably.
In Stockholm, for instance, 80 percent of inhabitants have Internet access at home and those that do not can still get online for free using PC terminals in libraries and other government-owned buildings.
And elsewhere, the city is increasingly turning to network-based applications to help cope with challenges such as a predicted 20 percent increase in population by 2030.
Perhaps because of this, the city's recently-elected Mayor, Kristina Axén Olin, has opted not to ignore Stockholm's technological heritage, but to take it to new heights as part of a bold move to increase the delivery of citizen-based services while keeping taxes low.
Promoting freedom of choice was an important election pledge for Axén Olin's Moderate Party and part of the strategy for achieving it includes a record SEK500 million (about USD$73 million or EUR€55 million) investment in network technology and applications.
According to Vice Mayor Kristina Alvendal, this "will take services to a new level. The main focus is to increase services to inhabitants and to make the services more efficient. We want to put Stockholm in the driving seat worldwide when it comes to service delivery."
Planned innovations include, for example, the facility for people to compare, select and pay for childcare arrangements online. "It sounds pretty basic but it is not possible today," says Alvendal.
"Citizens pay their government and utility bills online, so it seems natural they should be able to pay for this as well."
The service will build on existing technology-based applications such as a pilot that allows teachers in some schools to post records of classroom absenteeism, via a wireless handheld device, so that parents can check online whether their children are playing truant or not.
Another project currently under development will allow healthcare workers to post details of the care they administer to patients in an electronic logbook online.
These 'e-logbooks' will allow relatives and other healthcare workers to see at a glance what medications and treatments have been administered to elderly and other vulnerable citizens who are receiving care at home.
The e-logbooks will also help healthcare workers comply with Swedish legislation which requires them to document the level of care they are providing to patients.
Using the system, which could become operational in 2007, healthcare workers will enter details of each visit using a handheld device, barcode-reading mobile phone or fixed-line telephone.
The technology will be linked to other healthcare-related applications, such as staff planning systems, to improve the efficiency and accountability of the service overall.
It will allow more people to be treated for longer in the comfort of their own homes, improving citizen satisfaction while at the same time helping Stockholm's administration keep a reign on public spending in the face of a rapidly-growing population.
Yvon Le Roux, Cisco vice-president for the public sector in European and emerging markets, says: "Stockholm is a very advanced city in terms of Internet use and Sweden has always been at the forefront of the use of IT. Today, consumers are much more demanding in technology terms.
"In Sweden, the government bodies understand this and the trend here is for government applications to be much more focused on the citizen, precisely something that many other public sector organizations worldwide are trying to achieve."
Jason Deign is a freelance journalist located in Barcelona, Spain.
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