Sambruk e-community: e-services by Swedish municipalities

The sambruk e-community: linking Swedish municipalities on optimisation of e-services.

Abstract

The overall purpose of Sambruk e-community is to create a foundation for an effective development programme, comprising both the technical and functional aspects of e-services, as well as the need for re-engineering of the municipalities´ internal business processes.

EIF and Interoperability matching

The main principles standing beyond the initiatives are the followings:

  • Openness to freely and readily shared competence, experience and resources, when developing e-services and work methods;
  • Accessibility: e-Services will enhance accessibility to municipality service offering for citizens, companies and civil servants alike;
  • Participation: More member participation means faster and better results.

The efficiency criteria is also of great importance since one of the main goals of the initiative is cost optimization.

Concerning the recommendations provided by the EIF, the interoperability governance is ensured by a clear split of competence within the Committee along the entire project lifecycle. This also ensures operational agreements fixed by the internal rules and laws, as well as the coordination inside the governance structure (see the “Implementation chapter).

Policy context

The vast majority of Swedish municipalities are too small to handle the daunting task of revamping their internal business processes and establishing new e-service offerings to various stakeholders. This is the rationale for the creation of the Sambruk Association that is financed by its members.

This decision followed and implemented the VERVA's initiative (the Swedish Administrative Development Agency) for coordinated public administration, providing integrated and composite e-services.

Every Sweden's municipality, county council and agency that serve to promote the association's purpose is offered to become member. The most important supplemental funding for R&D is then provided by VINNOVA (the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems).

Sambruk membership fee is calculated based on the number of municipal resident (the smaller the municipality, the lower the fee), while the specific development projects are financed by the parties directly involved. When a municipality chooses to participate in a project, project costs are allocated to participating municipalities, also according to the number of residents. But Sambruk members are not forced to participate to each and every project.

 

Description of target users and groups

The target of the initiative is composed by all the 290 municipalities of Sweden, in their duties of competence, that are mainly education, social care, urban and environmental planning. The final goal is the organization and availability of multiple services put at the disposal of the entire citizenship of each municipality.

 

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Sambruk’s project model defines a work procedure for initiating new projects, setting them up with all necessary attributes (including financing) and conditions and run them to completion. Each project organization is staffed by the participating municipalities, in some cases supplemented by external consultants. This allow Sambruk to maintain a small and central organisation.  

Projects are established within Sambruk’s realm and financed by the specific participating municipalities for each project. Project management responsibility can be assigned to one of the participants or hired from an external source. In specific cases, e.g. research work or report writing, external consultants are contracted.

Researchers from three Swedish Universities (Lulea University of Technology, Stockholm University and Linköping University) are actively working in close cooperation with municipal employees while analysing existing business processes, peer benchmarking, creating new efficient procedures as well as specifying and establishing new e-Services to support citizens and municipal workers alike

The governance of the project is managed in the following phases of the project model:

  • Preliminary study - Analyze the prerequisites and specify the assignment;
  • Planning - Produce plans for implementation;
  • Implementation - Work in the project and ahead of the outcome;
  • Exit - Evaluate and discontinue the project.

Sambruk projects include:

  • project / client;
  • project manager, project group;
  • steering committee (where the project leader is appointed as rapporteur);
  • Depending on the size of the project, there may be a need for creating sub-projects.

Results from the project are handled according to Sambruk internal procedure, as follows:

  • materials produced or acquired to the association, shall be available to all members who wish;
  • All software should, as far as possible, comply with OTP (the Open Technical Platform – see below) and possibly follow an open source strategy;
  • prevent copyright to materials acquired through Sambruk and thus avoid locking effects for users.

After a project is terminated, Sambruk Administrative Council takes over ownership. Each municipality decides whether they want to sit with the Administrative Council.

The Management Council, which is directly under the auspices of the Board of Directors, is responsible for the material being managed in accordance with the Framework. It decides who should have access to the Material (as well as the terms of use) and recommendations to the Board that makes final decisions.

 

 

Technology solution

All e-services are built on a common technical platform (possibly but not mandatorily Open Source), with a standardised exchange of information between e-services and related back-office systems. An open IT-architecture, comprising modularized software, will result in a more cost effective IT environment defining new Business Models for utilizing open source software in the public sector.  The Open Technical Platform (ÖTP) is a collection of basic specifications, principles and, where applicable, components that enable co-operation and reuse between municipalities. They address how e-services and business support should be designed technically to be able to both increase the level of service for the citizens and increase internal efficiency in the municipality.

An important principle of Sambruk and ÖTP is that components must be useful, i.e. developed first when they are needed for the first time. The principle is also that OTP development is conducted within any project and within the same budget as the actual activity project. This ensures mutual proximity and anchorage between the functional capabilities of the solution and its technical development. However, some basic investigation, vision management, mission and coordination must always take place within the ÖTP project.

In principle, all co-operating municipalities are stakeholders in ÖTP. However, the municipalities participating in any of the other current collaborative projects are offered to be participants in this specific ÖTP project. The produced deliverables have to respect the standards decided by the SGM, the regulatory framework about the production/acquisition/management of materials within the Association Consumption Framework (either by Consensus as a Purchasing Party, or by any of the Association's members).

Standard agreements can then be adapted to each specific situation and type of material. 
It is based on open software principles but adapted to the Consumption situation. An SGM strategy should be able to coexist with other existing program licensing strategies, such as proprietary and fully open software. SGM is based on the idea that materials that are produced or acquired to the association, shall be available to all members who wish. The purpose of SGM is to prevent copyright to materials acquired through Sambruk being proprietary and thus create locking effects for users.

 

Main results, benefits and impacts

Similarities and differences between service offerings of municipalities are analysed and accounted for the collaborative development environment. This approach results in both enhanced services locally and overall benefits on a national scale.

Sambruk is also a strong bargaining and purchasing power towards IT vendors, compared to a singular municipality. A collaborative approach throughout the analysis, specification and procurement phases ensures a better result from both economical and functional aspects.An example of research conducted in order to capture business needs of municipalities is the Open data survey. It investigates the current situation in the municipalities and has been supplemented with a questionnaire for a quantitative analysis.

One example of the result is the Business models for open public sector software - BOSSANOVA. It develops support for the use of open source software in the Swedish public sector and theoretically examine business models for open source software in the public sector from both a customer and supplier perspective.

Another example of result is the iViS project (innovative school operation system), which completes open platform for school activities, comprising all school forms from Child Care to Adult Education and also comprehensive adaptations to the disabled.

Lessons learnt and best practices: Multifraga and SSBTEK

The philosophy of sharing good practices and projects among the different actors of the public authorities in Sweden is also developed beside the Sambruk programme.

A representative example of good practice is the SSBTEK, a national digital service enabling information sharing. 261 municipalities in Sweden (out of 290 in total) use the service, requested with 5 million questions per annum. Sambruk gave the initial input to the project, then put in the framework of a government initiative called the E-delegation. The project was then delivered by SALAR – Swedish Association of Local Athorities and Regions, an organisation owned by all local authorities and regions in Sweden. SALAR is today the owner and administrator for the SSBTEK and the technical delivery of the service is run by the National Insurance Agency.

The approach to SSBTEK brought to several applications, one of which is called Multifrågan: the service was developed in 2009 as a "predecessor" to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency's Information Exchange Complex for Economic Assistance (SSBTEK).

When a social worker wants to process a decision concerning financial aid, information and data from several national authorities are needed. This information gathering was time consuming and the risk for incorrect payments was considerable. The novelty of the service is that authorities, municipalities and organisations have been working together in a new way, breaking new ground where the law has been uncertain and found ways forward. Both increases in legal certainty through more accurate data as the basis for the assessment, as well as less time spent looking for the information needed.

There are other examples of how the data from SSBTEK has simplified processes, for instance the municipality of Trelleborg who went ahead in the development and automation of the procedure and have constructed a robot to deal with all applications for social security benefits.

 

Categorisation

Type of document
General case study
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