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.

Simple regulation, less bureaucracy

From 2018, it is mandatory to assess whether new legislation is ready to support digital case processing.

The Government has established seven principles for “digitisation-ready” legislation that ministries will follow, when they write new legislation.

Learn more about the seven principles for “digitisation-ready” legislation

A broad approach to cutting red tape

Besides the initiative to make legislation digitisation-ready, cutting red tape includes initiatives such as integrating social progress plans or so-called “burden hunting” to mention a few. Thus, Denmark has a broad approach to cutting red tape.

A holistic view on citizens with complex problems

The effort to integrate social progress plans is concerned with simplifying administrative procedures for citizens and families with complex social problems. Today, many citizens have more than one social progress plan from different municipal departments – for instance one plan related to rehabilitation and another concerned with finding employment. Social progress plans are developed in order to get caseworkers and public employees from e.g. rehabilitation and employment departments to coordinate closely. However, different social progress plans do not always converge, and this has created complex and incoherent case histories for citizens with more than one social progress plan.

In order to meet this challenge, an initiative to put forward a holistic view on citizens with complex problems and integrate social progress plans has been launched. This initiative is coordinated by the Danish Agency for Digitisation, and currently possible ways to digitize a holistic social progress plan are being scrutinized.

“Burden hunting” lightens the load on companies

Another example of the work being done to cut red tape includes the Danish Business Authority’s work on establishing simple regulation for businesses and companies in order to make it attractive to operate in Denmark. In this connection, a so-called “burden hunter” methodology is used. This methodology includes the perspective of the businesses in order to create regulation that is suited for their internal processes. In order to do this, the burden hunter approach can involve mapping of user journeys, user-oriented innovation or digitisation.

Read more about "burden hunting" on the Danish Business Authority's homepage