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Vision – Bürokratt: the next level of digital state development in e-Estonia

Pille is enjoying her morning coffee when her smartphone activates. Siil[1], the pre-installed virtual assistant on the phone, speaks in plain Estonian and says:

Good morning, Pille! You have ten new messages.’

Are any of them important or urgent?’ the woman asks.

Only one – a notice from the Police and Border Guard Board. Your passport expires in six months.’

There’s plenty of time then. Siil, please add a reminder to my calendar for passport renewal one month before the deadline,’ Pille requests.

Alright. But last week you booked a flight to Thailand for next month. To enter the country, your passport must be valid for at least six months according to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,’ Siil explains. ‘Shall I order a new passport?

Yes, Siil, please order me a new passport,’ Pille makes a new request.

Alright, I’ll contact the Police and Border Guard Board AI. To proceed with the application, you need to identify yourself – your fingerprint and security number, please,’ Siil asks.

Pille places her finger on the fingerprint sensor and recites her security number after the beep.

Well done. Just one more thing, Pille: please look at the camera,’ Siil instructs.

Pille looks at the camera and presses the selfie button. The passport photo is sent on its way, but a few moments later Siil says,

The the Police and Border Guard Board’s chattbothas requested a new photo without a smile, as smiling is not allowed in passport photos. Look at the camera again, Pille.’

Pille does as she's told and a new picture is sent on its way.

Your passport will be delivered to your home within five working days,’ says Siil shortly after.

This digital state of ours is incredibly convenient,’ Pille thinks to herself as she takes another sip of her morning coffee.

What is Bürokratt?

Bürokratt is not just an IT project to create an Estonian state virtual assistant, i.e. an AI UI – although this may be necessary as an intermediate step. Instead, Bürokratt will allow a person to get everything they need from one device with a virtual assistant in one communication session.

​Bürokratt is thus an interoperable network of public and private sector AI solutions, which from the point of view of the user acts as a single channel for public services and information.

Why do we need Bürokratt?

In short, to make it radically easier and more convenient for people to use public services.

​People want to consume public services in such a way that:

  • they do not have to go to great lengths to use the services or posses or acquire special knowledge for the user interface or process – they want things to get done quickly and for the user interface to be easy to use (regardless of age);

  • the services work seamlessly across all operating systems, software platforms and devices, offering as coherent and consistently high-quality experience as possible.

​​​In addition, it is important that people:

  • do not need to have all the knowledge or navigate through various institutions or websites, or spend significant time figuring out the specific steps or requirements involved when seeking a service or addressing a problem – services should be efficiently bundled, including according to (life) events, and provided at once;

  • do not need to keep track of deadlines for obligations or opportunities – the state should inform them, ie by giving advance notice of upcoming deadlines or by offering services proactively;

  • retain the ability to make choices in significant matters and have the opportunity to choose between services – so that not everything is fully automated.

​The user experience of e-government services in these areas can also be improved without the use of kratts. For instance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has undertaken the development of event services, which aim to integrate life events with public digital services and enable proactive interactions. Nevertheless, by using AI solutions and tools, it is possible to achieve significant improvements in the user experience of these areas exponentially faster, better, and simultaneously.

​It is voice-enabled virtual assistants that offer the most user-friendly interface for accessing and providing services. Speech is and will likely continue to be the most natural and therefore the easiest way for (almost all) people to use services.

​In this way, all the complexities and inefficiencies of the public sector can be moved to the background for the user, i.e. to the level of software and machine-to-machine interaction, by incorporating service proactivity, integrity and the like. The technology required to implement this vision is mostly in place, although there are certain areas where further development and integration is needed.

Bürokratt is thus essential to elevate public (digital) services to the level of the best possible user experience.

Once the Bürokratt vision is implemented, the average user (private person, business) will be able to use the public digital services of Estonia in the following ways:

  • by voice and in Estonian – this means that the state does not necessarily need to further develop other user interfaces (web, app etc) and the user experience of services does not depend on people’s computer literacy;

  • by using any of the most commonly used devices that come equipped with a virtual assistant – although the digital government will never be able to reach every device from every manufacturer, we must be able to cover the most popular ones, starting with smartphones;

  • the service session typically begins with a notification, i.e. as a result of the proactive actions of the state, instead of the user searching for information or taking initiative;

  • at the same time, when obtaining information through the information service, users have the option to initiate services themselves, unless the launch of the service is automated for user convenience;

  • as a personalised service based on individual user data, rather than just a general information service based on queries (as is the case with most virtual assistants today);

  • by having the opportunity to validate all kinds of actions (e.g. submitting applications, making payments, concluding contracts, changing data) which would otherwise require, for example, a (digital) signature;

  • all the current service needs of the person have been satisfied within one session, i.e. everything has been taken care of at once as a comprehensive (event) service – to this end, the services provided by different governmental authorities and at different levels of government (state and local government) are integrated into one and, where necessary, matters can also be addressed uniformly across state borders (in the case of cross-border services) and between the private and public sectors.

This vision cannot be implemented all at once, but its separate parts can be tested and implemented one at a time to gradually develop Bürokratt.

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