Bureaucrat: the next level of development of the digital country in e-Estonia

Pille is enjoying his morning coffee when his smartphone activates. The virtual assistant Siil[1] that came with the phone software says in pure Estonian:

-"Good morning, Pille! You have ten new messages.”

-"Is there anything important and urgent about them?"the woman asks.

-"Only one - notification from the Police and Border Guard Board. Your passport expires in 6 months."

-"Then there is still time - Siil, put a reminder in my calendar to renew my passport a month before the deadline,"says Pille.

-"Well. But you bought plane tickets to Thailand for the next month just last week. You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months to enter the country, according to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.explains Siil. -"Shall I order a new passport?"

-"Yes, Siil - order me a new passport,"Pille orders again.

-"Good, I will contact the PPA krat. To apply, you need to identify yourself - your fingerprint and security number, please,"asks Siil.

Pille puts his finger against the fingerprint sensor and says his security number when it beeps.

-"Okay, just one more thing - look at the camera, Pille,"directed by Siil.

Pille looks and presses the selfie button. The passport photo goes on the road, and after just a few moments, Siil says again:

-"PPA Kratt asked to take a new picture, because you can't smile in the passport picture. Look at the camera again, Pille."The picture will be taken as instructed and a new picture will be sent.

-"The passport will be sent to your home in 5 working days,"Siil will inform soon.

-"We are still very comfortable in this va digital country,"thinks Pille, and he hasn't even finished his coffee yet.

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What is Bureaucrat?


It is a vision of the digital operation of public services in the era of artificial intelligence or cratia.

Bureaukratt is an opportunity for a person, or user, to use public direct and information services with the help of virtual assistants[2] with spoken communication[3].

Bürokratt is not just an IT development project to create Estonia's national virtual assistant, i.e. an interface for using services - although it may be necessary as an intermediate step. Instead, the #Bureaucrat in the future will allow a person to get everything done in one communication session from any device and through a virtual assistant.

Bureaucrat is thus a network of public sector bureaus and private sector bureaus created on national information systems, which from the user's point of view functions as a single channel for receiving direct public and information services.

The bureaucratic wheel will certainly not be technologically a large-scale chat wheel, in the "belly" of which all communications and business operations take place. Estonia's digital state is built on the principles of distributed architecture for a reason, in order to be more flexible to develop and more resistant to cyber threats. This must be followed in the Kratia era as well.

If, for example, one crate is "broken" or "broken", the other crates must be able to continue to function and the person can partially manage things. With a rapidly developing technology such as artificial intelligence, applications need to be constantly updated or even replaced anyway. For example, in the case of one large chatbot operating throughout the country, this further development is a complex process, compared to the parallel development of ten interoperable different chatbots, which can serve the user smoothly.

Why is Bureaucrat needed?

In short: to make the use of public services radically easier and conveniently accessible for people.

People want to consume public services in such a way that:

  • they should not have to work hard to use the services and have or acquire special knowledge, neither in terms of the user interface nor the process - so that things can be done in a simple form and the user interface is extremely easy to use (including for all ages);

  • the services would work in any operating systems, software platforms and devices - and at the same time in the most uniform way and uniform quality.

In addition, it is important that people:

  • should not have to know and search for a long time, in which institution or website, in which order, or what all needs to be done in case of need or concern for a service - so that the services are comprehensive, including bundled around (life) events for them and provided at the same time;

  • should not know when the deadline for an obligation or opportunity will arrive - so that the state informs them, i.e. signals the deadline in advance, i.e. offers services proactively;

  • however, you could make choices in important places and choose between options for using the services, so everything would not be completely automatic.

It is possible to improve the user experience of Digiriiki's services in these directions, even without any problems. For example, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has therefore launched the development of event services, i.e. the interweaving of public digital services around life events and making them proactive.

However, with the help of artificial intelligence solutions and tools, it is possible to achieve improvement of the user experience in the above directions exponentially faster, better and at the same time.

Virtual assistants working with voice communication make it possible to make finding and providing services the easiest in terms of user interface. Speech is and will predictably remain the most natural and therefore the easiest way of using services for (almost all) people.

In this way, all the complexity and clumsiness of the public sector can be pushed to the background for the user, that is, to the level of software and communication between machines, building in the proactivity, integrity, etc. of services. The technology to implement this vision is largely already in place, although at times it needs to be further developed and woven together.

#Bureaucrat is therefore necessary to bring public (digital) services to the level of the best possible user experience.

However, there is one more reason. The Estonian state is already actively adopting krates in various state institutions and digital services.[4] It is worthwhile for us early on to ensure the interoperability of different crates through #Bürokrat and to create an appropriate framework so that they can function in cooperation for the user.

As a result of the widespread implementation of crates, there is otherwise a risk that new or existing "silo towers" of institutions or information systems may be created. Users would then have to manage in the maze of different chatbots and virtual agents - as he often wandered between different webs before. #Bureaucrat as a cooperative network of bureaucrats helps to avoid this.

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Characteristics of a bureaucrat -  general business requirements


In the implementation of the bureaucrat's vision, an ordinary user (private individual, entrepreneur) can use Estonian public digital services in the following way:

  • by voice and in Estonian - i.e. the state does not necessarily need to further develop other user interfaces (web, app, etc.) and the experience of using the service does not depend on the ability to use a computer;

  • with any of the most common devices that come with a virtual assistant -  certainly the digital kingdom will never reach every device from every different manufacturer, but we must be able to cover all the most common ones and we have to start with smartphones;

  • the service session mostly starts with notification, i.e. as a result of the state's proactive action, and does not require the user to search for information and take initiative;

  • at the same time, when finding information on the basis of the information service, the user can also initiate the consumption of the services themselves, except in cases where the service is started automatically for the sake of user convenience;

  • as a personalized service based on your own data, and not just as a general information service based on a request (as virtual assistants largely do today);

  • enable  to approve all kinds of actions, e.g. submitting applications, making payments, concluding contracts, changing data, etc. - which otherwise, for example, require a (digital) signature;

  • in the framework of one session, all your current need for services is satisfied, that is, as a complete (event) service, everything is arranged at once - for this, the services provided by different government institutions and levels (state and local government) are integrated into one, but if necessary, things can also be arranged across national borders in a unified manner (for cross-border services) and between the private and public sectors.

This vision cannot be realized all at once, but different parts can be tested and put into practice from here - to gradually build #Bürokrati.

[1] This is a working name for the purpose of the concept paper here, so that the example is device neutral. Siil was a good adviser in the national epic "Kalevipoeg".  

[2] A virtual assistant allows a person to make the device perform various actions using spoken language communication. Virtual assistants include, for example, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby, and others.

[3] A direct public service is a service that an institution provides to a natural person or a legal entity under private law at its will, including its presumed will, through a service contact in any communication channel and which enables the person to fulfill an obligation arising from the law or exercise a right arising from the law - Regulation of the Government of the Republic "On the Organization of the Service and basics of information management", https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/131052017007

[4] See the overview of usage stories and the Estonian kratikava 2020 page www.kratid.ee