The complex approach to technology use for customers: from an Electronic Application System to a Mobile App and Robots
The Rural Support Service of Latvia (RSS) is responsible for the implementation of unified state and European Union support policy in the sector of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. The project was initiated by the need to reduce bureaucratic burden and help customers to receive support easy, quickly, without mistakes. RSS cooperated with different stakeholders, such as private sector organizations, service providers, clients and professionals from agricultural holdings.
The Rural Support Service of Latvia created a complex system:
-Electronic Application System (EAS): a useful tool for customers to receive support easier and faster. It gives the possibility to submit documents and enter all the data, to follow actual information and individual financial flow;
-Inner technological system solutions: Robot who checks the details of the beneficiaries in the registers; automated processes in the system, for example, the “green corridor”- administration of customer applications for direct payments;
- Usage of satellite images, information from drones in everyday work;
- Mobile Application: all important information for customers in their mobile devices;
- Virtual Assistant: gives advice to customers in 27/7 mode.
The innovation is based on both a targeted use of technology and an integrated view of the problem-solving.
The Electronic Application System (EAS) was introduced in 2009, and since then customers can submit all the necessary information there as well as follow all current activities. 100% of customers use EAS, which reduces the error rate and allows the EAS to pay out support faster. The system also reduces potential errors when applying for EU support to agriculture and rural areas, because in the EAS it is possible to integrate diverse mechanisms to ensure both: cross-checking of data input and verification of the data with other existing data systems. The system helps to promote government efficiency and to accelerate the decision-making process, which in turn speeds up the receipt of services.
The next step was to automate various system processes to proceed with application and information evaluation. RSS started to use satellite images in order to remotely analyze how the fields are managed.
RSS also employs a technological worker, Robot, who checks the information in the registers. This is a big step towards the planned monitoring system in agriculture.
In 2019 a mobile application was launched that allows customers to follow up-to-date information on their devices.
At the end of the year, a virtual assistant will be launched in order to answer customer questions 24/7 on the website.
From this complex innovation, the winners are the customers, with less bureaucracy, more up-to-date information, faster payments, fewer application errors.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Such a complex approach in the usage of different technologies and tools is innovative in both the RSS itself and in the public administration in Latvia.
It includes a very high degree of electronification, as 100% of all customers use the Electronic Application System, up-to-date information is available in the mobile application, automated processes significantly speed up the payment process and the robot automatically checks customer data in registers, while a virtual assistant gives advises to customers on the website.
Another innovative approach was the way in which RSS converted all customers to using electronic tools. Initially, it wasn’t set by law but was achieved by demonstrating the benefits to society and citizens. It involved a great deal of explanatory work and customer education - going out of the office to help customers understand how to use modern technology and apply for payments. It wasa large-scale communicative work and educational activity.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The innovations are now up and running. Electronic Application System (EAS) is fully functional, customers are able to use Mobile application where all data and current information is displayed, satellite images are used to describe how farmers handle their land and Virtual Assistant IEVA is in the active deployment phase. The Rural Support Service of Latvia innovations have been evaluated both: nationally and internationally (WSIS Prize).
RSS does not stop at implementing the innovation but continues with improving different modules. Additions and enhancements are developed in EAS, reminders are built-in so that customers do not forget to apply for any support. A control module of the Mobile Application will be launched in March 2020, when clients will be able to record their own work results. From January 2020 the Virtual Assistant will give consultations to the public. Internal automated processes are being expanded, and, in order to save resources, Robots are assigned other responsibilities.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The project initiative came from the Rural Support Service of Latvia (RSS), which is responsible for the administration of various support measures for agriculture, rural areas, fisheries, and forestry. The development of the Electronic Application System was made by “Tieto Latvia” Ltd., further cooperation continued with “Autentica” Ltd. Now RSS works together with other state institutions developing system modules also for the needs of the State Revenue Service, for gas filling stations, etc.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
In the process of system development, new services were integrated into the system. RSS took into account the ideas of customers (users of the system) about necessary improvements in the system, as well as organized discussions with farmer public organizations - Farmers Federation, Agricultural Organizations Cooperation Council, etc. Non-governmental organizations also have submitted ideas for the improvement of the system.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
There are many benefits in having all customers as users of the Electronic Application System (EAS): fewer errors in applications, faster application administration process and fewer documents for customers to fill out, as most of the data is copied and retrieved automatically. Customers receive payments faster.
The Mobile Application allows you to view all current information, including information also from EAS, on smart devices. This allows you to quickly capture and send up-to-date information to the Rural Support Service of Latvia.
The EAS has 70,000 customers, the Mobile Application - more than 3,000 customers, and the number is growing. The use of Robots and robotic processes allows significant savings in human resources and costs.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge was to design the overall system so that it was comfortable and easy to use. This is why the Rural Support Service of Latvia used the AGILE approach - a step-by-step approach, so that good solutions can be found in a timely manner. Initially, the first solution of the Electronic Application System was completely rebuilt in 2007, because it did not meet customer requirements. The implementation of the project required training of employees and change of their mind-set so that implemented solutions were customer-friendly.
Great effort was made towards information work for customers, such as face-to-face consultations in small Latvian parishes and organization series of seminars.
Conditions for Success
A professional innovation-oriented Rural Support Service of Latvia (RSS) team with a common goal - a client-oriented approach - played a major role in this success.
The aim was to replace the paper mountains with a convenient system. This required a change of mindset among the employees themselves. RSS management played a huge role in setting strategic goals and motivating the team.
Great support was provided by companies that designed the system - Tieto Latvia Ltd., as well as Autentica Ltd. The satellite images came from the European Space Agency. Tilde Ltd is involved in the development of the Virtual Assistant. Collaboration is another cornerstone of success and a positive outcome.
The complex approach and use of technology demonstrated by the Rural Support Service of Latvia can be used by any other institution. Customer motivation and education, as well as the openness of the employees, are important. It is essential to remember that the most important thing is the human user themselves, but that technology is there to help with different activities.
There are some key principles the Rural Support Service of Latvia (RSS) always take into account when developing a complex system:
- take into account the ideas and wishes of clients – people who might have opinions about a particular service (“you have to know what they want”);
- best approach how to introduce new services or ICT tools is to do it step by step (“not to frighten clients instantly with many updates”);
- make consultant and educational modules to help clients (“be ready to explain and inform clients many times – their knowledge, skills and attitudes level is different”).
The ultimate goal of RSS was to achieve full digitization of their services so that no more paperwork is involved and all exchanges of information between RSS and their clients takes place only in electronic form. It required necessary changes in legal acts, IT systems and thinking of both their employees and farmers.
Not all clients are computer friendly so there is full technical support provided from the RSS during the process of the application process for aid, to allow also, for example, elderly farmers to benefit from being part of the electronic application process.
The aim is to maximize the number of electronic public services provided for farmers, which are related to agriculture and rural support payments. The use of the complex approach of different technologies allows reducing the potential errors when applying for EU support to agriculture and rural areas.
The system helps to promote government efficiency and to accelerate the decision-making process, which in turn makes faster receipt of services and information exchange.