Information technology and Social Security
The International Social Security Association (ISSA) held an ICT Conference in Brazil, April 16-20, 2012. The following is content taken from the Social Security Policy Highlight 23 newsletter and shares information on the way technology has and will affect social security systems worldwide in order to adapt to changing environments.
The increasing importance attributed to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in social security organisations represents a global trend. Administrations are increasingly turning to ICT solutions to provide new services, satisfy stakeholders through improved quality and increase the efficiency of major processes.
ICT has also played a role in the extension of coverage. The use of ICT in improving contribution collection and compliance, simplifying sign up and claims procedures and providing better information to the population, are all examples of the concrete impact of appropriate solutions.
However, the introduction and management of ICT is not without risk, particularly as projects can require significant investment in infrastructure and staffing. Administrations need to ensure that the services provided are consistent with stakeholder needs. And the ICT process must be managed efficiently to ensure that the results from the implementation of new measures, at the very least, match expectations.
ICT improves how benefits and services are delivered and perceived by the population. Web-based communication allows greater interaction and communication between the population and social security administrations. Many administrations provide information through a dedicated Website, but there is an increasing trend towards more tailored “e-services” which uses Web-based applications and improve interaction and relevance for users.
In recent years, mobile phone technology and personalized responses to individual needs have further improved the service offering. The provision of “e-services” is now seen as a mainstream approach, involving the provision of virtual service centres where clients can easily and quickly complete their transactions electronically without manual intervention. In order to avoid the fragmentation of service sites, institutions have often opted for the implementation of “one-stop” Web portals, which provide unified entry points to access services.
E-services have resulted in a wide range of benefits such as increased accessibility, both geographically and time-wise; personalised services, such as individualised information and benefit projections; possibility to carry out transactions remotely, such as contribution payment and making claims; and improved efficiency in transactions, which can be provided more quickly and at less cost.
Although much depends on how systems are put in place and managed, successful implementation of e-services can lead to a reduction in transaction times, cost savings and an increase in customer satisfaction.
Successful implementation of e-services is not straightforward. It often requires significant changes in the way a social security administration works including organisational change by transforming working processes; human change by training personnel; cultural change by embracing the transformation; and communication changes to ensure the population is informed of access to information possibilities.
Ultimately, it is important that new tools are reliable and easy to use. Other communication channels, such as call centres and experimental video-based systems, have often been introduced in parallel to Web technology, reflecting the fact that parts of the population are often unable or unwilling to access information in this way.
Successful implementation has tended to occur when administrations have used the opportunity to transform the way they operate. By providing the online services the public needs or desires; they have put in place a citizen-centric approach.
Implementation and operation of ICT solutions requires appropriate preparation and ongoing management of the challenges and problems that may arise. Successful ICT projects require a few critical elements such as a detailed plan, to include analysis of costs and benefits to be realised; anticipation of future technical challenges; and continuous checks on efficiency and customer satisfaction
That said, it should be noted, ICT’s potential has not been fully exploited, as many administrative processes are still based on outdated or inappropriate approaches.
Secondly, challenges for ICT application remain, including financial constraints, administrative capacity and human resources skills.
Implementation of ICT requires transformation of the administration and effective management both at implementation and operation. Finally, if the challenges are addressed and the process well managed, practical ICT solutions can lead to improved services for end users and better business practices.
For further questions, or if there is a particular aspect of Social Security that you would like discussed be it from a local, regional or international perspective, please contact the Social Security office at Know Your Social Security, The Antigua & Barbuda Social Security Board, P.O. Box 1125, St John’s, Antigua or email us at: email@example.com.