April the 28th, 2023 – The Croatian Shared Services Centre is set to put a very welcome end to standing in lines at various government offices in order to get various administrative tasks done. This change can’t come soon enough for the vast majority of people who have wasted hours of their lives in pointless queues.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, the project to establish the Croatian Shared Services Centre, which formally began back in 2017, is now beginning to develop much more seriously. The recent signing of the Agreement by the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society with four state institutions – APIS IT, FINA, CARnet and AKD – all of which will act as service providers, represents the biggest step forward in the process of the much needed digital transformation of Croatian society.
“This is the beginning of a new era of state information infrastructure,” said Bernard Grsic, State Secretary of the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society at a press briefing recently. Speaking much more concretely, this means that everything that state institutions have been doing separately for decades, with their own servers, technologies and capacities, will now be united under one single umbrella.
Although a lot has already been done with the establishment of the Croatian Shared Services Centre itself, in which a massive 360 million kuna (EUR 47.8 million) was invested, the real work is actually only just getting started. As much as 20.4 percent of the funds, or three billion kuna (398.4 million euros) for the 21st investment, have been reserved for the digitisation of the state, namely, from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Croatian: NPOO).
The Central State Office is responsible for eight of them, and they include interoperability, connecting databases, establishing digital tools for data analysis, and upgrading the CDU. All this will mean that within two years, people will no longer have to waste their time going from counter to counter for various things because all of the state institutions will finally be connected. Why this hasn’t happened sooner is as much of a mystery to me as it is to you, but it seems old habits die hard (and sometimes they even come back to life).
So, what’s actually changing with the new Croatian Shares Services Centre?
Through the e-Citizens/e-Gradjani system, people can already receive 101 simple services. For example, they can take out a birth certificate or a marriage certificate. That’s all well and good, but then they have to print that document out and take it to another institution where they’ll then need to submit a request for the provision of a specific service.
They will no longer have to do that because all institutions will have all the data of every person, that is, they will be networked. “We want to develop services that solve people’s various life situations,” explained Grsic, adding that thanks to this project, the state will function better, it will be more efficient, and the services, which people often and rightly complain about, will be of much higher quality.
What’s known as a data lake system will be established within the new Croatian Shared Services Centre, through which the state will collect all sorts of data that is currently scattered around among various institutions, and in the future, it will all be in one place.
”This means that the state body will be able to pull different information from various institutions, which is practically impossible today, because state bodies keep a lot of information in Excel tables,” noted Grsic. It will also enable the creation of various registers, such as the announced Register of Residents, Families and Households, which is being created for the Tax Administration as part of the digitalisation project of this financial institution.
“Thanks to that, the state will be able to carry out better analyses, and based on them, better conclusions, and adopt better policies accordingly,” said Grsic. This platform, as announced by the state secretary, will be established in a few months, after which the implementation should begin.
“The goal is for 65 state bodies and local and regional self-government bodies to be connected through the data lackey system by 2025,” he said. In addition, the state secretary in the Central State Office for the Development of Digital Society assures that such a mass of private data, which the state will now have all in one place, will not lead to their threat or possible manipulation. He points out that peoples’ privacy and data security will be protected through GDPR rules, and that the system will be arranged so that it will always be possible to check who accessed the exact data and from where.
The Shared Services Center project also aims to establish a unique system for monitoring investments, costs and communication with the European Commission, which is now “scattered” between the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds and the Ministry of Labour and Finance. FINA will be in charge of that.
The plan is also to establish a virtual contact centre that will provide people with all of the information they might need through any form of communication (SMS, e-mail, WhatsApp, telephone…). This platform should be established by the end of the year, while its application should start in the first quarter of 2024. Grsic also announced the establishment of the e-Citizens/e-Gradjani mobile platform.
All these digital innovations conducted by the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society should bring a number of advantages, both for the general public and the state, but also for entrepreneurship because, as Grsic explained, all the services that were developed for the public were also developed for the business sector through e-Business.
Ultimately, all of these upcoming projects should also lead to savings. Exactly how much will be saved, the state secretary says, they don’t know yet because they don’t have an exact calculation. However, he added, it is certain that all sorts of costs will be reduced because the public procurement of IT equipment will also be unified. As for the state institutions that will provide services to other bodies, each will be designated for a specific segment. CARnet will be in charge of the E-learning system, AKD for the development of blockchain technology and digital signatures, APIS for the establishment of platforms, FINA for the financial system, while security will be taken care of by the Central State Office headed by Grsic himself.
The goal of establishing the Croatian Shares Services Centre, for which APIS IT is in charge, was to integrate 300 state institutions into it by the end of 2023. Grsic explained that there are already more than 500 institutions on the “state cloud”, which is an introduction to the creation of the digital sovereignty of the state.
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