Developing and running a Subsidies Management Back-Office System using Open Source Software exclusively is a challenge that the Brussels Region French Common Community (CoCoF) took up. Previously 20 different departments maintained separate lists of associations that benefited from those subsidies, resulting in the impossibility to answer in due time to questions coming from Political or Administrative Authorities. The resulting system manages Societies, Subsidies, Inspections and Budgets in a user-friendly way through a Web browser. The technology enables to translate the whole system to another language by editing a single file. The identification is done using the Belgian Electronic Identity Card.
First of all, the Brussels French Parliament several times examined the benefits of using Open Source Software inside administrations. Although no decree has been issued until now, political authorities as well as the administration agreed on the need to implement Open Source Software. Secondly, the competent Minister requests that the administration grant the subsidies on more rational base and more efficiently. Finally, all this must be done at the lowest possible cost.
Description of target users and groups
The Sub-Associations system is used by 20 departments of the CoCoF that manages different type of subsidies. About 1300 societies subdivided into more than 20 different categories located on the Brussels territory and involved in social and public actions benefit yearly from about 1500 subsidies. About 400 inspections are done yearly.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
To begin, the CoCoF provided enough time to the developers to self learn the technologies to use. It's kind of a bet that went fine and implies a high confidence. The project manager assigned a single contact person to be the interface between the clients and the developers. This contact had to centralize all the needs the client wanted and define in a report all the use cases of the project. After that, the project manager/developer started the analysis (realized complying with UML standard) and started the development. The software's architecture isolates the different layers (MVC II Model) : Data Access Layer, Business Layer, the Output Layer, the Internationalization Layer, etc. Every component can be replace without changing all the others implementations. Finally, a demonstration of the project was made in front of all the Administration Directors and all the civil servants related to the subsidies. This operation's objective was to introduce a all-made project to the CoCoF and convince them that the project will hep them to accomplish their tasks.
The CoCoF created a new job to manage the centralization of the data and the good use of the application. This person receives requests by fax, emails, phone calls and physical contact at the desk and prepares the answers, dispatch the questions to the relevant department, collect the answers and lets them approve before replying.
Main results, benefits and impacts
First of all, the better evidence is the time between the request for information from a external or internal service and the response the administration do. Previously, when a Minister asked for a list of all the societies receiving subsidies from the CoCoF, the responses time ranged from 3 months to ... never ... because the administration had to ask to every department their list and the list format was specific for every department. Nowadays, the responses time decreased to less than 2 minutes. Secondly the control department spent more time collecting all the data related to one society to control than performing the control work itself. The inspector is now able to state the double or triple subsidy granted to a specific society. Finally, such a project is the corner-stone of the future work flow at the CoCoF. Indeed, 95% of all the activities is bound to subsidies. The further implementation of information processing at the CoCoF will be built around this application. The data centralization and the user-friendliness enabled a more efficient public service. The use of Open Source Software is the best warranty for the sustainability. Innovation: The exclusive use of Open Source Software by a public administration is a very daring behavior. Regarding the result of this application, we could ask ourself why as few public bodies adopt Free Software. A piece of the answer is that they fear for the lack of support and internal expertise.
Return on investment
Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available
Track record of sharing
The Brussels Dutch Common Community might be interested by the project because they grant identical subsidies to the Dutch speaking societies of Brussels.
Lesson 1- High quality data processing tools can speed up the administration functioning and improve its performance. Lesson 2- Implementation speed is a critical success factor to convince civil servant and to maintain the enthusiasm of the users. Lesson 3- Developing a project having a single contact person between the clients and the developers permitted a better coherence in the user's needs description and avoid the developers disturbance.
Scope: Regional (sub-national)