CBSS, the eGov Program of the Belgian Social Sector (CBSS)

In Belgium, there are a lot of partners in the social sector. A major business process re-engineering and computerization was carried out during the past 17 years by about 3,000 Belgian public and private actors in the social sector from different levels, under coordination of the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (CBSS).Their close collaboration firstly led to the implementation of a network for mutual electronic service delivery. All actors connected to the network can mutually consult their databases. Following the business process re-engineering, an integrated electronic work flow has been developed between companies and actors in the social sector.

Policy Context

The Belgian social security consists on the one hand of 3 insurance systems (workers, self-employed workers and civil servants), that cover maximum 7 social risks (incapacity for work, industrial accident, occupational disease, unemployment, old age, child care and holiday pay - the so-called branches of social security), and on the other hand of 4 assistance systems (subsidies for the handicapped, guaranteed family allowance, minimum income and income guarantee for the elderly), that grant people specific minimum services after checking their subsistence resources. In addition, a lot of public institutions at the national, regional or local level, or private companies entrusted with missions of general interest (e.g. energy, water or public transport companies) grant complementary benefits (e.g. tax or price reductions, free passes for public transport, …) to citizens based on their social security status. In total about 3,000 actors are responsible for the execution of the Belgian social security and social protection. More than 10,000,000 socially insured persons and 220,000 employers have very regular contacts with those actors to assert their rights, to furnish information therefore or to pay contributions.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The whole e-government program of the Belgian social sector was prepared, developed and implemented in close co-operation between all involved actors, and with the support of political decision makers at the highest level. Use was made of existing formal consultation organs within the social sector for this purpose, such as the National Labour Council, the highest consultation organ between the social discussion partners, and the General Co-ordination Committee of the CBSS, in which all actors in the social sector are represented. Furthermore and specifically for some projects within the program, a number of ad hoc consultation platforms were established. To improve the service delivery to the citizens and the companies, the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (CBSS) was created 17 years ago. The mission of the CBSS is to be the motor of eGovernment in the social sector. The CBSS has won, in name of the network of the social sector, the 2006 United Nations Public Service Award in the category of "Application of information and communication technology (ICT) in Government: e-government".

Technology solution

The electronic data exchange amongst the actors in the social sector and between those actors and the companies and citizens takes place by way of an integrated functional and technical interoperability platform, which complies with strict security standards and is based on modern technologies such as service and object orientation, component-based development, multi-channel service provision, communication from application to application wherever possible, and on open standards such as TCP/IP and XML.

Main results, benefits and impacts

All information needed by the social security offices for the calculation of all social security contributions and of all salary and working time related social security benefits is collected only once from the employers, at the moment that one of the following four types of events occurs: the beginning of an employment relationship, the three-monthly payments of social security contributions, the occurrence of a social risk (24 scenarios) and the end of an employment relationship. About 50 types of declarations to social security have been abolished; in the remaining 30 types of declarations, the number of headings has been reduced on average to a third of the previous number. In 2007 23 million electronic declarations have taken place. According to a study of the Belgian Planning Bureau, the rationalization of the data exchange processes between the employers and the social sector implies an annual saving of administrative costs of more than 1 billion euros a year for the companies. In the meantime, social security offices have recently been working away on the installation of a growing number of transactions directly intended to facilitate the life of the citizens. Innovation: A social security portal is available containing integrated services (information and transactions), organized according to basic themes (private life, professional activities, health, …) or business episodes of companies (starting a company, recruiting personnel, …). The portal is intended for companies, citizens and professionals of the social sector. An important event, which has been put forward by the national e-government policy, concerns the availability of an electronic identity card for every citizen (EID card). This tool will allow to speed up the offer of transactions to the citizens in a secure way. The Belgian federal government has also implemented an identification and authentication service, enabling citizens and companies to identify and authenticate themselves at all public websites and portals with the same user ID, password and token, providing they have followed a registration procedure. This identification and authentication service can be used as an alternative until the electronic identity card is available to all Belgian citizens. Finally, through the availability of detailed statistical information about such matters as employment, unemployment and inability to work in a data warehouse environment, the CBSS provides an important input for a better support of social and economic policies.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The CBSS actively shares its experiences with interested institutions in Belgium and abroad. The approach has been described in several public documents and has received a Good Practice Label within the e-government Good Practice Framework set up by the DG Information Society & Media of the European Commission. In 2001, the general manager of the CBSS was asked by the Belgian federal government to elaborate an e-government plan for the federal public services, based on the successful experiences in the social sector. This plan, that is now being executed and permanently updated by FEDICT, has extended the above mentioned vision of the use of information as a strategic resource to the whole Belgian public sector and contained, amongst others, concrete projects such as the delivery of an electronic identity card to all citizens, and the creation of a Company Register, of a federal service bus and of an integrated portal environment. In addition to that, a number of components developed within the social sector, are re-used in the Belgian public sector in general.

Lessons learnt

The CBSS project contains important lessons for every government that strives to improve its services towards the users and especially towards companies, through an adaptation of internal and external processes with the help of modern technologies. Lesson 1. Make sure that available ICT components and information are re-used to a maximum. Use already existing networks, means of electronic identification, authentication and authorisation, interoperability frameworks and their accompanying basic services, portal environments, and the electronic information that is accessible from validated databases inside and outside of government. Through this, the efforts can be directed towards developing services with an added value, which are based on process improvements, while the multifunctional use of the same components is assured for all. Lesson 2. Attune the service offer maximally to the needs and the logic of the users and involve them actively in the development of the services. Match the governmental processes with the own processes of the users. Assure user-friendliness. Lesson 3. Make sure that the users have confidence in the electronic services that are provided. Develop an information security policy, which is designed to guarantee the availability, confidentiality, integrity, authenticity and auditability of the information systems. Scope: National
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