World-class public e-administration in Norway

Norway is one of the world’s leading nations in the digitisation of public administration. Especially now, in times of lockdown and the necessary availability, its citizens are benefiting from this. For quite some time Basefarm has been making a significant contribution to this process.

Norway is one of the leaders in the United Nations’ Digitization Index. Out of 193 member states, Europe’s Northern Outpost ranks 11th in the electronic participation of citizens and 14th in the development of e-government. Central government and self-governing bodies communicate with citizens by e-mail and text messages. 640 public companies also do so. By the end of 2019, almost 2.1 million of the 5.3 million Norwegians had set up the necessary digital mailbox.

When it comes to forms, messages and basic relevant information, Norway relies on Altinn, the Internet portal for digital dialogue between companies, private individuals and public institutions. It is developed and operated by the Altinn cooperation of several government agencies. The Brønnøysund Register Center manages the technical solution on behalf of the cooperation.

Today, Altinn is an established and comprehensive digital platform with continuously strong growth in data volume and also in the number of connected public authorities and digital services. Through Altinn, the Norwegians can directly reach 45 service providers in the public sector, including ministries, tax offices and employment offices. The platform is constantly being optimized and expanded with new functions.

Basefarm, the Scandinavian parent company of *um, plays a leading role in this development, which Edvard Pedersen may best describe. He is project manager for the Altinn solution at Brønnøysund Register Center.

Those looking for a great partner will find Basefarm

“We landed on a mix of suppliers that best fulfilled our criteria. Basefarm was the best operations supplier.”

So says Edvard Pedersen, project manager for the Altinn solution at the Brønnøysund Register Centre. The government’s ambition is that Norwegian public electronic administration (e-administration) should be the best in the world. Altinn is perhaps their most important card.

“We must have a partner and supplier right out of the top drawer in order to achieve this goal. Basefarm is an important part of achieving the government’s ambitious target,” says Pedersen, who counts his supplier as a partner. The decision to award the operations contract was made on the basis of stable operation, predictability, economy, scalability and security. Seen as a whole, Basefarm delivered the best bid,” says Pedersen.

Specializing in e-administration

From the time Altinn was established in 2004, Accenture was the total supplier with another operations company as sub-contractor. When the agreement came to an end in 2008, Altinn entered into a new direct operations agreement with Basefarm. Accenture was chosen to retain responsibility for application administration and further development. “Basefarm specializes in operations. They are also light on their feet. The can change direction quickly and enjoy the benefits of a smaller operation, where larger, more heavyweight organisations often have too much bureaucracy. They deliver what they have said they will deliver,” says Pedersen. “At the same time we can see that the interaction with Accenture, who are suppliers of the other areas, is very good,” says Pedersen.

System change

Behind the change of supplier is also the change over to the next version of Altinn.

“This will be a radical new system in which we are trying to break down the traditional silos between different instances,” says Pedersen, who explains that the new Altinn solution, unlike Altinn I, is based on standard modules.

“That also makes us more independent of suppliers,” says Pedersen.

The new Altinn solution was launched in the autumn 2009, and involved a system change based on system oriented archi- tecture (SOA). It gave opportunities for interaction and workflow between and across public services and with companies, such as coordination of reporting payroll and personnel data to public services and pension funds.

Needs a robust system

Altinn is the main channel for electronic dialogue and reporting between business and public bodies. Both VAT reporting and tax returns for self-employed and businesses via Altinn have passed an 85 per cent proportion. Over 2.3 million individuals and 430,000 companies have reported electronically via Altinn since it began. Traffic can be high, especially around the time of the annual tax returns, but otherwise varies a great deal through the year. The database is 2.3 terabytes in size.

“We must have a robust system that can tolerate large fluctuations in traffic and can handle the high traffic peaks,” says Pedersen, who explains that Basefarm give an uptime guarantee of 99.8 per cent.

Looks promising

Around New Year 2009, Altinn transferred operational responsibility to Basefarm and switched over the enormous database. “It went well, and with fewer complications than expected. It’s been a steep learning curve, but the company delivers well,” says Pedersen, who characterises Altinn as a large and demanding public sector customer. After a three month trial period from start up, Basefarm passed the test and the delivery was approved.

How has Basefarm tackled the challenge?

“We may perhaps have been a larger and more demanding customer than they are used to, but the have met the challenges head on and stuck with it. Basefarm has clever people with a lot of know-how. The service level appears to be good, although we haven’t been able to test it properly yet,” says Pedersen.

Secure prestige project

“The government has placed a great deal of prestige in Altinn. Costs of between 500 and 700 million NOK are anticipated for development, administration and operation of Altinn during the period of the agreement,” says Pedersen.

“The government has made it clear that it wants service providers to use Altinn. If they do not, then they must explain why to the Office of the Auditor General of Norway and the Ministry of Finance,” says Pedersen.

The Brønnøysund Register Centre and Altinn are sitting on socially critical information that is important for many of society’s functions. The requirements for security are great. “Basefarm’s security solution matches these requirements.”

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