Cutting red tape in Denmark

In Denmark, the effort to cut red tape is closely intertwined with the use of new technology. New digital technology is key, but technology cannot stand alone. The rethinking of processes and a new approach to legislation is also necessary to fully realise the potential for public sector efficiency.

For the past 30 years the effort to cut red tape in Denmark has been closely connected to the use of new technology. Denmark is a welfare state, and thus a large part of the workforce is employed in the public sector. This means that streamlining the public sector using digitisation has a huge impact on the Danish economy. In the Agency for Digitisation, we integrate administrative processes and new technology in order to make the public sector run more efficient.

Cutting red tape equals technology

Already in 1983, the Danish government launched a modernisation program which pointed towards new technology as part of a larger effort to create a modern and efficient public sector. Since then, governments both on the left and right side of the political spectrum have put forth strategies that have guided the effort to cut red tape and harness technology for efficiency improvements and better service for citizens.

In the context of the Danish public sector, cutting red tape means to remove needless rules and administrative hindrances as well as applying new technology in order to simplify and streamline administrative processes. In this sense, technology is closely intertwined with the effort to cut red tape.

The Agency for Digitisation coordinates a wide range of initiatives with connection to the overall effort to cut red tape. An example of this is the Basic Data Initiative which aims at collecting and providing quality data that can be used by public authorities to make administration more efficient. Most of the work carried out in the Agency for Digitisation, including the work with Basic Data, revolves around Denmark’s Digital Strategy 2016-2020.

Read more about the Basic Data Initiative

Read more about Denmark's Digital Strategy 2016-2020

More than technology

At the same time, the effort to cut red tape and modernise the Danish public sector cannot rely on technology alone. A common mistake in public sector digitisation is the “power-to-process approach” where existing processes are digitised without an effort to simultaneously rethink processes to fit digital platforms and possibilities. As an example, streamlining administrative processes is not easy when the processes in question are based on legislation and concepts that are not necessarily clear or homogeneously defined across different legislative areas. Therefore, in recent years, there has been discussion of a new approach to legislation, where the law is written to be “digitisation-ready”. This initiative should contribute to a better interaction between digitisation and legislation.