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Public Service Day 2020: Award-winning Public Initiatives

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The United Nations marks today as Public Service Day 2020. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of innovative and adaptive public service delivery and the critical role public servants play has been highlighted like never before. Whether working in healthcare or delivering essential services in the areas of sanitation, social welfare, or law enforcement, public servants globally have continued to work in the community as many people shelter at home, risking their lives to ensure ours can continue.

Public Service Day 2020

The United Nations will observe Public Service Day 2020 on 23rd June to honour the women and men who are risking their lives and health to deliver essential public services amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prominent public servants from around the world will share their success stories in containing the disease and their experiences with innovative solutions that ensured the continuity of vital public services throughout the pandemic.
K.K. Shailaja Teacher, Minister of Health of Kerala State is among the renowned speakers at the online event. The event will bring together public servants and leaders to discuss the importance of the continuation of public service provision during times of pandemic. In doing so, it will examine the various approaches countries have taken during the crisis while looking at what measures they are undertaking to better mitigate such challenges in the future. The UN Symphony Orchestra will perform a virtual concert in honour of public servants lost their lives to COVID-19.

What is Public Service Day?

On 20th December 2002, the General Assembly designated 23 June as Public Service Day by adopting resolution 57/277. UN Public Service Day celebrates the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlights the contribution of public service in the development process; recognizes the work of public servants, and encourages young people to pursue careers in the public sector. To bolster recognition of the Day and the value of public service, the United Nations established the UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) programme in 2003, which was reviewed in 2016 to align with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Award-Winning Initiatives at UN Public Service Day 2020

The UN has announced that seven innovative projects will receive this year’s UN Public Service Award, the highest global accolade for excellence in public service to institutions that contribute to a more effective and responsive public administration. This year’s winners have developed and delivered some of the most innovative initiatives in their regions, ranging from improving access to health care to programmes that improve school attendance or make land transfers easier for the poor.
Hailing from Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, Republic of Korea, and Spain, the winning initiatives cover a variety of key public services, from healthcare for older persons, e-platforms for education, benefit entitlements, judicial proceedings and land mutation applications, to education for vulnerable youth. We present the stories of 5 winners of Public Service Day 2020, sourced via UNPSA.

1. e-Mutation

Problem: Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has a both a land scarcity problem and a complex property transfer system. The mutation of land (the method of changing the title of ownership from one person to another when the property is inherited, transferred or sold) has long been a lengthy, expensive and complex process rife with corruption and a lack of transparency which affected the rights of women, the poor and the vulnerable to access land. The manual mutation process often took up to 60 days, requiring 3 to 4 in-person meetings and could often include the added expense of ‘middlemen’ who helped with application submission.
Solution: The e-Mutation initiative established a digital mechanism for mutation applications, which allowed for more efficient application, tracking of the process, and delivery of timely services. It’s aim is to ensure transparency and accountability in the process, increase efficiency, and ensure a system that is fair to all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable including the illiterate, women, older persons and the poor. The initiative also recently developed a hotline service for land-related issues and grievances. The e-Mutation service has helped increase the credibility and trustworthiness of the public administration in charge of land services.
Impact: The time for land and property mutation was reduced from 60 to 28 days with only one visit (instead of 3 or 4 prior to the initiative). According to reports provided, it served 1.5 million beneficiaries, especially women and people with disabilities.

2. Automatic Social Energy Tariff

Problem: Since 2010 the Portuguese government has operated a ‘Social Energy Tariff’ programme which aims to ease the burden of energy bills for low-income families by allowing for reduced fees for the most in need. However, uptake of the programme remained low with consumers either unaware of the entitlement or deterred by the administrative burden that came with putting in a request for tariff reductions.
Solution: To address the low uptake rate, the Automatic Social Energy Tariff (ASET), a national interoperability platform, was developed in 2016. The platform automates the tariff application process, cross-checking data from several government entities to identify the consumers who are entitled to the “Social Energy Tariff”. Through the service, the Government proactively checks for eligibility and automatically attributes a social tariff allowed to bridge the gap and ensure all families in need now have financial support for their energy services. In such a way, the onus has shifted from the individual to the government to ensure that low-income families have access to the reduction.
Impact: According to evaluations provided, automating the Social Energy Tariff saw an improvement in the number of beneficiaries from 4% to about 20% of all the households in Portugal, representing an overall discount of over 85 million euros on their invoices. The Automated Social Energy Tariff platform was launched for piped natural gas only, however a pilot project for a “Bottled Liquefied Petroleum Gas” social tariff is under development in order to benefit vulnerable consumers who do not have access to natural gas.

3. Seongdong District’s HYO Policy

Problem: Korea has an ageing society. In 2019, older people (65 and up) accounted for 14.9% of Korea’s population, a figure that is expected to exceed 46.5% by 2067. The ‘old-old’, often face a range of issues including economic poverty, healthcare, mental health issues, accessibility barriers, and social isolation. At the same time Korea is witnessing a shift in responsibility for older person care from the family to the government, presenting challenges on how to ensure care.
Solution: Seongdong District in Korea introduced its older person friendly healthcare programme, the “HYO Policy” in a bid to make healthcare services more accessible to ‘old-old’ persons suffering from serious economic poverty, frailty, and social isolation. The ‘HYO Team’, composed of doctors and nurses, provides home health visits to the old-old in five areas: health checkups, chronic disease management, depression and dementia management, and financial support for medical bills. In 2018, the healthcare management programme for the intensive management of the old-old with frailty issues was created which included socialization programmes to combat isolation and depression and increased the physical accessibility of welfare services through the building of a medical welfare network, including through partnerships with private clinics, welfare services and care providers at various services points.
Impact: To date, 24.2% of old-old have registered with the programme, and 6.8% are in the intensive programme group. Of those registered, 75% of old-old persons with diabetes have controlled the disease, and their social relationship rating has risen from 23.9 to 31.6, while their depression rating has fallen from 19.6 to 17.7.

4. ICT Integration into Teaching and Learning

Problem: The northeast region of Botswana was faced with the challenges of implementing the government ICT policy (information and communications technology) in its education system. The Policy aims to enhance connectivity, promote a culture of lifelong learning and accelerate innovation to develop knowledge-based systems while delivering government services electronically. However, the education and school system in the northeast were lagging, with data being processed and stored manually and low uptake of schools and teachers using ICT for learning and administrative purposes.
Solution: The region introduced ICT Integration into teaching and learning by developing a web-based interactive platform (e-Thuto) consisting of e-learning and data management modules. The e-learning module targets teachers and learners with parental participation. The data management module manages the regional data of staff and student information. The initiative resulted in the creation of one virtual office where all regional data is managed and stored and where information, including individual learning performance can be accessed. The system also gives access to all school data to the school principal/head; the Regional Director can access all school information for the region.
Impact: The project has provided a platform for both learners and teachers to use and enhance ICT skills, while also offering enhanced data management of student and school performance. It has provided an effective learning environment that ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.

5. Justicia Digital

Problem: Traditional forms of accessing, using and sharing judicial information, through physical access to documentation, was slow, cumbersome, difficult to access and prone to security challenges. The Ministry of Justice in Spain has worked to streamline and digitize judicial procedures to benefit both professionals working in the area and citizens using it, with the aim of enhancing accessibility, transparency, efficiency and fairness.
Solution: The Ministry of Justice in Spain developed the Justicia Digital: La visión 360º de la Seguridad (Digital Justice: 360 vision of security) quality plan in 2016 to improve the administrative management of all existing judicial offices in its field through enhanced ICT and training to professionals using it.
The processing of a judicial procedure is carried out electronically for the duration of the life-cycle of a judicial procedure, from the presentation of the initial demand to its final resolution, including any appeals, in an efficient, orderly and safe manner. It offers a platform for accessing electronic legal proceedings including online participation, e-information exchange with third parties, access to case information online, recordings of trials and transmission of procedures between judicial bodies.
Impact: The Ministry of Justice has established an effective, efficient and secure system for accessing online judicial information and undertaking procedures. Since the implementation, complete electronic processing of judicial files has been achieved, with greater security through elements such as secure electronic signatures and secure VPNs being used to ensure confidentiality of information. This initiative will be discussed at today’s event for Public Service Day 2020.