A digital state citizen should have to apply for something they are entitled to or obligated to do as seldom as possible. On the contrary, the state should offer to take care of these things for the citizen, Kuldar Taveter writes.
Postimees (Link in Estonian – ed.) recently reported that Transport Authority examiners are keeping a professional elderly driver from passing their repeated driver's exam. The person had driven without a license for almost a decade as they had not been sent a notification concerning their license having expired either in the mail or electronically.
Leaving aside the reasons for the authority's failure to notify the citizen or why they did not receive the notice, I would ask why is it necessary for a citizen to apply for a renewed license in the first place?
Yes, the right to drive is tied to the validity of one's driving license in the Traffic Act. However, isn't that a vestige in a digital state where all one needs to prove their right to drive is their ID-card, with the driving license only required abroad?
In any case, issuing a renewed driving license should be the problem of a digital state and not the citizen as the former exists for the latter and not the other way around. This means that if the citizen has a valid digital health certificate, the state should automatically issue them a new driving license. What is more, the state should remind people if their health certificate is about to expire.
A digital state citizen should have to apply for something they are entitled to or obligated to do as seldom as possible. On the contrary, the state should offer to take care of these things for the citizen by using data in state registers and information systems.
The relevant public service – proactive service – is defined in the government regulation for service organization and data management as a "direct public service an agency offers following its own initiative and presumed desire of persons and based on databases part of the state's information system."
The concept of proactivity comes from information scientists who understand it as the ability to initiative activities based on data that forms one of the core characteristics of artificial intelligence.
The state is collecting more and more big data, improving its ability to offer individual citizens the most important digital services.
I can already feel human rights activists getting sweaty palms when reading these lines as they feel every new database threatens people's right to inviolability of private life and personal information. They want to know whether people could opt out of proactive services?
No need to worry. Scientists have thought of it and developed a method that allows citizens to choose to what extent they want to use proactive public services.
Estonia already has a proactive service where a single click of the mouse is enough to approve the Social Insurance Board's parental benefit.
The Tax and Customs Board sending people a preliminary version of their income tax return can also be considered a proactive or anticipatory service. It is accounting for taxation purposes using data in state registers and information systems concerning the citizen's income and taxes paid.
Austria, the Netherlands and Taiwan also offer individual proactive services.
My experience from workshops involving parents and elderly people suggests that people are generally happy when the state reminds them of things or, better yet, takes care of them for the person.
Proactive services would also be very useful in the current healthcare crisis, making it possible to bring information on vaccination mostly to younger citizens, but only those who want to receive services offers from the state.
Editor: Marcus Turovski