The COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to endangering the safety and health of citizens, is affecting the social and economic system, while creating multiple-level crises that exacerbate social inequalities. Responding to this crisis is not just a matter of health services. The pandemic crisis is challenging what has worked in the past, even if it had little effect. This crisis is gradually turning into a "crisis of doubt". It is a fact, resulting from the response of public services at national and international level to date, that the crisis creates opportunities for the transition to a new dimension where the new regularity is the creation of an innovation ecosystem, in which the collective intelligence based on the cooperation of public services with citizens and other sectors of the economy and society is in central position.
It is clear that today, more than ever, we need an innovative public sector in order to advance in new ways of thinking and create this new regularity.
The Public Sector Innovation Observatory of the General Secretariat for Public Sector Human Resources has created a special page that brings together practical and innovative actions implemented by public sector organizations at national and international level to respond to the 19 COVID crisis. Through this action, we aim to promote networking, enhance learning and present new ideas from existing practices, so that Greek public organisations teams, working on crisis response actions, can be inspired by them or adjust them to their needs.
To date (July 2020), 11 practices from Greek public organisations have been posted on the Innovation Observatory's special page as well as 147 international practices have been collected, relating to innovative actions responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Regarding the 11 practices of Greek public organizations, 7 are implemented by Municipalities and the remaining 4 by Ministries. Specifically:
Social welfare and protection
The Ministry of Interior has designed a large program to support vulnerable groups in cooperation with Municipalities throughout Greece. The «Help at Home» program has been strengthened since the beginning of the crisis in order for the Municipalities of Greece to provide their services smoothly, covering the increased needs. The Municipality of Trikala with the program «Providing food assistance at home to people in need» and the Municipality of Agioi Anargyroi Kamatero with the program «Protection Network to serve the citizens» organized volunteer initiatives for the provision of services and products at home to vulnerable groups of their citizens.
Improvement in information and communication
The Municipality of Agios Dimitrios created a 5-digit support telephone number with the possibility of sharing citizens' requests to the competent services of the Municipality and the Municipality of Lefkada developed the Digital Citizen Assistant so that the citizens have access to the required information on COVID-19, precautionary measures that they can receive as well as automatic updates on important developments.
Supporting the public health sector
The Ministry of Health with the program «Become a Volunteer for the Protection of Public Health» has created a network with more than 10,000 volunteers to support the country's health system. The Municipality of Minoa Pediada planned the action «Online Information and Counseling for issues of mental health and social empowerment» in collaboration with psychologists and provides counseling in order to preserve the mental health of citizens in quarantine.
New and improved public services
The need to serve the citizens and protect them while providing services has accelerated e-government actions. The Municipality of Serres with the use of an application for the Provision of Certificates and the Municipality of Visaltia with the «Center for the provision of electronic services» created solutions for the provision of certificates which are expected to be maintained and further strengthened after the crisis.
Internationally, the solutions developed after the completion of the first period have three characteristics:
- More centralized solutions:
The solutions are now designed centrally with local application. For example, the «Groceries at your door» network in Romania, the «Mass control system to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and the promotion of local trade and tourism» in Spain and the Cooperative Program «Work in Public Administration» of Portugal .
- Upgrading citizens' transportations:
In Paris and Milan, the choices of those who wish to travel by bicycle are strengthened, hoping to reduce the use of public transport and congestion in them, but at the same time to maintain the reduction of pollution observed during the quarantine period reducing transport by car.
- Enhancing the digital transformation:
In the Czech Republic, "ePrescription" and "eSick" solutions push for the digitization of the health care system, and in Portugal, the "Digital Response Office of COVID - 19" is the single point of citizen's digital contact and support.
More internationally implemented actions can be found at the “COVID-19 International Practices” page created at the Innovation Observatory, which is regularly updated with practices collected from other countries.
The initiatives presented are reflected in the best possible way through information gathered from the organisations involved in disseminating the information and the material received from OPSI OECD and the European Public Administration Network.
In addition, these practices are posted as observations, we have not made any evaluation in terms of their results and reliability. As these are relatively recent actions, it takes time to prove whether they are effective.