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The driving licence dilemma

What happens when four directorates are responsible for delivering one service? Service design in the public sector is about untangling complex processes in order to release innovation potential.

Retaining your driver’s licence is not as simple as you think. If you are elderly, are ill, or drive a motorised vehicle for a living, you must prove your fitness to drive on a regular basis. That sounds fair enough, you say. But when you’re told that no fewer than four different directorates, plus several underlying entities, are all responsible for managing a person’s right to drive, you begin to grasp the complexity of the situation.

In a major service design project, Halogen and Rabmøll took on the task of assisting the Norwegian Public Road Administration, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the National Police Directorate and the Directorate of eHealth in finding better ways of determining a citizen’s right to drive.

Model of the process from calendar, via the involved agencies to a person with a car

One service – four government agencies

You might think that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration is the body responsible for issuing driving licences, but it’s not that simple. If you have a heavy goods vehicle licence, or are more than 70 years old, you must consult a doctor regularly in order to obtain a medical declaration confirming your fitness to drive. On the roads themselves, it’s the police who control the right of motorists to drive. Moreover, our digitalised medical records are now the responsibility of the new Directorate for e-health.

For the first time, the organisations have a common understanding of the problem

Jan Edv. Isachsen
Head of Section, Vegdirektoratet

As a citizen, you are not provided with information telling you who is responsible for what. It is your responsibility to ensure your driving licence is valid, and to consult your doctor when it’s time for a renewed health check. Then you must take the doctor’s written confirmation of your fitness to drive to one of the Public Roads Administration’s traffic offices. This operation alone costs society billions of kroner, due to lost job earnings as people spend time going to their doctor and to the traffic office.

Model of the project process

Agreeing on the problem

So, what did the designers do? The first important step was to gather all the involved parties in one room. By visualising the whole service journey from the citizen’s perspective, the agencies could agree on the essence of the problem. It is a challenge that a problem one agency can solve, might resolve a difficulty in a different agency. This underlines the need for a common understanding of the challenges, so the different agencies can cooperate and find solutions that work for everyone.

In this way it is possible to find new ways of delivering a service. Why do the drivers have to show up in person both at the doctor’s and the traffic office? Does a driving licence represent physical proof of a person’s right to drive, that drivers must always carry with them, or might their right to drive be confirmed in other ways? How can we best safeguard privacy when handling sensitive health data?

The questions are many and complex and it is not difficult to understand why issues tend to get tangled and problems arise. If an agency starts to pull one of the threads, without considering the other agencies’ needs, the entanglement gets worse, and one might end up with a really tight knot. But when all parties come together and apply the methodology designed to meet the challenges in a holistic way, the problem can be resolved. The result can be billions saved and a much more convenient user experience for motorists.

Piloting and testing of new solutions was not possible within the constraints of the project and the terms of reference of the agencies’ IT departments. The modification of large and critical public services requires a broadly-based approach synchronised with the organisations’ other activities. The main goal of the delivery, therefore, was to secure the further development of the digital services in order to expand the terms of reference. A long-term development of the administrative system governing the right to drive is necessary, if we are to achieve a change in the law, and the re-organisation necessary for the further development of the required digital services.

About the project

The project "Conditions for the right to drive" was financed by the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) and Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) through Stimulab. This is a so-called phase zero project, where the aim is to uncover the real problems rather than to realise new solutions.

For more information, please contact

Leif Verdu-Isachsen
Head of Design and Deliverables
+47 90 91 99 21