The trope of a government office worker, discontent with their work, grumbling about paperwork and administrative tasks, is a cliché. An equally ubiquitous figure is the discontent citizen dissatisfied with long lines, complicated bureaucratic processes and inefficient service delivery, wondering why their governments can’t do better.
The World Bank supports governments across the world who strive to serve citizens better. One of the most powerful tools to do so are Citizen service centers (CSCs).
Modeled after one-stop shops, which were introduced to facilitate government-to-business interactions and to expedite processes such as business registration, CSCs focus on government-to-citizen services. Citizens can access a variety of national, state, or municipal services (e.g. social services, tax-related services, services for refugees, land-related services, etc.) in one single location.
In Kenya for instance, a total of 66 services are offered at the Huduma Centers. They can be divided into a fixed menu of public services offered by the national government—such as the issuance of national identification cards or filing tax return applications. Other services that can vary depending on the county’s specific socioeconomic context are also offered by the county government, such as the issuance of single business permits and seasonal parking tickets.
In Vietnam, 13,000 CSCs or one-stop shops operate at all levels of government, from provinces and districts to commune, ward, and township levels, ensuring that all citizens are in a few kilometers range of an access point to public administrative services.
In 2016, a study conducted by the World Bank found at least 77 countries that are developing or strengthening physical and digital CSCs. The most significant developments in the design and functioning of CSCs over the past decade are linked to technological advances. Four themes —access, personalization, speed, and interaction— shape the newest innovations in CSC design.
In many cases, this means shifting from a primary reliance on brick-and-mortar centers to include the use of digital channels; reengineering processes and procedures to increase speed and ease of use for citizens; providing more targeted information; and shifting from only providing information and services to also receiving feedback and input from the citizens.
The integration of service delivery into a single CSC has the potential to increase trust between citizens and the state and to improve the efficiency and quality of service delivery. For implementing agencies, key benefits also include lowering administrative costs through economies of scale, restructuring of business processes by effectively using technology, as well as improving revenue collection.
The CSC in Pancevo, a medium-sized city in Serbia with a population of 130,000, for example recorded 117,929 visits in 2016 alone. That year, the average waiting was 2 minutes and 51 seconds while the average transaction time was only 9 minutes and 11 seconds. Furthermore, a January 2017 public perception survey revealed that the CSC ranked high (4 points out of 5; 5 being the highest score) in citizens’ opinions regarding quality of communication and satisfaction with services provided.
By enhancing citizens’ access to government services and designing service delivery mechanisms that cater for all sections of society, including vulnerable groups, CSCs can also be instrumental in fulfilling essential human rights and reducing corruption.
Therefore, they are central to the good governance agenda. Has your city, region or country recently introduced CSCs?