In social security, a one-stop shop can be defined as a single point of access to several social security organizations or services for the provision of services in a given area. In its widest sense, a one-stop shop aims to simplify access as far as possible to a comprehensive service, in one single place and one single visit, during which a citizen needs to interact with a maximum of one or two different individuals. One-stop shops are usually established to draw together fragmented social security services, enhancing the overlap between them and creating links with other sectors.
One-stop shops may be physical, comprising customer service centres, or digital, involving online services accessed via the Internet. This article will focus exclusively on online one-stop-shop experiences.
While these types of services are not new – there are examples dating back to the 1990s – they became widespread in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Kubicek and Hagen (Kubicek and Hagen, 2001) highlighted the important role they play in modern public administrations, differentiating between three types according to the scope of the functionality provided: (i) First-stop, an information counter that guides citizens towards relevant services, (ii) Convenience store, where many different transactional services can be accessed in a single physical or virtual location, and (iii) True one-stop, integrating many of the services required by a specific client group.
Since 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has urged its member states to make use of the opportunities afforded by technology and one-stop shops in order to deliver services to the general public in a more streamlined and user-focused manner (OECD, 2012 and OECD, 2020). A 2016 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) survey on the development of e-government highlights a global trend towards providing services through online one-stop shops (UN, 2016).
In its Guidelines, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) also recommends the development of one-stop shops since these enable institutions to deliver public services more simply and to sidestep bureaucratic obstacles. Indeed, the ISSA organized a technical seminar on improving service provision in social security, focusing on the one-stop-shop system for social protection services.
There is no single one-stop model or approach, as these vary from one sector to another and according to the scope of the programmes in question. Another factor is the number of organizations involved, with a clear distinction to be made between one-stop shops providing services from within a single institution (intra-institutional) and inter-institutional models offering services from more than one institution or different levels of government (e.g. central, regional, local).
One-stop-shop projects may also permit the redesign of public services by transforming the internal processes on which these are based. As such, they can be classified according to the depth of the changes brought about, differentiating between those developments that transform internal processes and the simplest digital channels used for existing processes that continue to function as they did prior to the creation of the one-stop system.
|Criterium||Types of one-stop shop|
|Scope of functionality||First-stop: Service providing procedural information, including guidelines, FAQs and downloadable forms and documents.
Convenience store: Incorporates transactional services, thus enabling the realization of complete procedures. Requires user access restrictions.
True one-stop: Integrates most of the services required to meet citizens’ needs.
|Number of organizations involved||Intra-institutional: Provides services from within a single institution.
Inter-institutional: Provides services from more than one institution or level of government.
|Degree of implementation||Reception desk: The digitization of customer service channels based on existing processes.
Transformational: The reformulation of internal processes.
One-stop-shop approaches in social security
The development of a one-stop shop is covered in the ISSA Guidelines on Service Quality (ISSA, 2019a). Indeed, there is a specific guideline on the subject (Guideline 13: “One-stop shop approach”), which fed into all the case studies presented below. These also drew on the ISSA Guidelines on Information and Communication Technology (ISSA, 2019b).
The vast number of good practices in this area that were submitted to the ISSA Good Practice Award competition for the Americas in 2020, as well as those that have come to light through other ISSA activities, show that the roll-out of one-stop shops is a hot topic among social security institutions. A number of different institutional approaches are outlined below.
Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Resources (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos – AFIP) has launched a one-stop shop to encourage the formal integration of monotax contributors (monotributistas in Spanish) (AFIP, 2017). This group accounts for 60 per cent of taxpayers, but only 1 per cent of tax revenue. It is a large group with little knowledge of the rules. As such, a solution was designed, at minimal public cost, to meet the needs of this category of workers as simply as possible through a website dedicated exclusively to them.
This one-stop shop is available around the clock, with access protected by a username and password. The site gives monotax contributors access to all the services they might require, from their initial registration until they leave the system. They can access the site from any mobile device or through a web browser.
The AFIP’s one-stop shop for monotax contributors is a true, intra-institutional and transformational one.
Brazil’s National Social Security Institute (Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social – INSS) and DATAPREV – Social Security Information and Technology Enterprise (Empresa de Tecnologia e Informacões da Previdência Social) approached the implementation of a one-stop shop through the Meu INSS (My INSS) initiative. (DATAPREV, 2020; INSS, 2020).
This initiative consists of a customer service centre that provides services remotely, drawing on technology to facilitate citizens’ access to INSS services from the comfort of their own homes, thereby helping to make social security access more universal.
Meu INSS provides citizens with a platform through which they can carry out their formalities in comfort and with peace of mind. Inspired by the desire to reduce bureaucracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in public services, it set out to increase the number of requests and enhance remote support, with transparency criteria and controls an inherent part of the system. The customer service centre brings together online services in a single platform, using a centralized access system established by Brazil’s Federal Government. The significantly improved user experience makes it appealing to beneficiaries.
In conjunction with this process, the requisite regulatory changes are being sought to be able to do away with the need for signature recognition on documents. Procedures are also being modified and systems integrated with a view to the eventual automatic granting or rejection of benefits. As such, the aim is to reduce both queues in agencies and delays in the granting of benefits.
The social security one-stop shop established in Brazil is a true, inter-institutional and transformational one.
The Mexican Social Security Institute (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social – IMSS) developed an online one-stop shop for the granting of old-age and old-age-severance pensions through its My Digital Pension (Mi Pensión Digital) initiative. (IMSS, 2020)
The challenge for the IMSS was to streamline and digitize the process by which pensions are granted, making it both simpler and more transparent, so that citizens can access their data, assess the relative benefits and drawbacks of taking retirement, and find out in advance how much income they will receive. Prior to the launch of My Digital Pension, the information at the citizen’s disposal was inadequate, even incomplete. The simplification process set out to review operating processes, reduce the number of documents required for a pension to be granted, and bring about the requisite regulatory amendments to achieve said changes.
Digitization went hand in hand with modernization as it involved the use of information technology to reduce the number of trips required to an IMSS agency, thereby boosting process interoperability both within the IMSS itself and across institutions. This led to online services becoming accessible to the majority of insured persons. The process of digitizing and extending services began with old-age pensions before moving on to encompass the rest of the pensions provided by the institution.
The IMSS took an intra-institutional (since it only affected internal processes), convenience-store approach that involved the transformation of services.
EsSalud – Social Health Insurance Institute (Seguro Social de Salud) in Peru rolled out a virtual integrated platform for insured persons (Ventanilla Integrada Virtual del Asegurado – VIVA) (EsSalud, 2020). This one-stop shop can be accessed via any connected device and is aligned with the national policy of public service modernization, moving from a face-to face customer service model to a remote one.
VIVA does not seek solely to provide beneficiaries with a new channel through which to conduct operations and consult their EsSalud data, but also to enhance service quality, reducing the time it takes to carry out insurance and benefit procedures.
This initiative came about in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis and provided a way of accessing services in a lockdown scenario.
EsSalud’s one-stop shop is an intra-institutional convenience store. It takes a reception-desk approach as it does not involve the transformation of processes.
Uruguay’s Social Insurance Bank (Banco de Previsión Social – BPS) launched its first one-stop shop in 2005 in partnership with the country’s Directorate General of Taxes (Dirección General Impositiva – DGI). This one-stop shop brings together both institutions’ affiliation formalities (registration, modification and closure) with a view to facilitating taxpayer compliance and easing the administrative burden on the tax authorities, including by reducing the costs involved. The platform is based on a shared agenda, which seeks to provide contributors with a more responsive service and reduced waiting times.
The above one-stop shop is an example of an inter-institutional (since it involves more than one institution) convenience store. It serves as a reception desk as it does not involve the transformation of processes, but instead simply harmonizes registration forms.
In 2012, the applications used to enter data from these forms were also merged and more institutions were brought on board. However, each institution retained its own internal processes at this stage.
Another more recent BPS innovation, which came about in 2014, is the joint BPS/Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) one-stop shop for the registration of workers either starting up in a new occupation or ceasing a given activity. The aim is to offer contributors an online channel and a mobile app through which they can inform the authorities in real time of a worker’s start or cessation of activity.
The approach taken in this case is that of a convenience-store-style one-stop shop that is both inter-institutional and transformational.
It is clear from the various good practices in question that institutions develop one-stop shops for a range of reasons. As such, the results also differ. This said, there is overlap in all cases in terms of tangible benefits quantifiable using quality improvement indicators. Table 2 summarizes the results achieved.
|ARGENTINA - AFIP||Improved rates of voluntary compliance and reduced payment arrears.|
|Improved payment procedures, with seven steps reduced to two.
Improved process for changing the status of monotax contributors, with seven steps reduced to three.
|Incorporation of online assistance system, enabling monotax contributors to make enquiries through an online chat function.|
|BRAZIL – INSS and DATAPREV||A tenfold increase in automatic decisions to grant or reject benefits between 2018 and 2019, allowing 1.1 million cases to be resolved without human intervention.|
|Thirty-five million authenticated users were registered, and eighteen million downloaded the application. The number of accesses increased exponentially, reaching 160 million in 2019.|
|MEXICO - IMSS||63 per cent of enquiries received between August 2019 and June 2020 (some 250,000 procedures) were handled through the online portal. In all cases, beneficiaries received an estimate of pension value prior to signing the documentation.|
|Processes streamlined, with the number of documents required to launch the procedure reduced from eight to three and checks and interactions automated.|
|PERU – EsSalud||Moved to an online mechanism available 24/7, with the average processing time of an insurance or benefit procedure reduced to three minutes through VIVA.|
|A marked increase in the number of users and operations. While this increase began with the launch of the one-stop shop, the second quarter of 2020 saw a larger increase owing to the health crisis. In this quarter, user numbers increased by 769 per cent and the number of operations by 384 per cent.|
|URUGUAY – BPS||Higher quality of information shared between the Social Insurance Bank and the Directorate General of Taxes, with data-matching processes eliminated across the two institutions and contributor registration times significantly reduced.|
|More convenient contributor registration, with the ability to do this in any BPS or DGI office or via either institution’s website, both of which use the same web application.|
|In the case of the one-stop shop with the Ministry of Labour, information pertaining to workers’ periods of activity was amalgamated, with the same database shared by both institutions.|
All of the cases considered converge in highlighting a number of factors that are critical to implementing a one-stop shop in the field of social security.
The first of these involves having in-house capacity and the buy-in of senior management. In its good practice, EsSalud emphasized securing management support and the relevant policy decisions to accompany the initiative. It also provided training to internal and external users and raised awareness of the VIVA platform through a range of media. BPS also mentioned that the success of its inter-institutional one-stop shops relied to a great extent on the support of senior management and the policy decisions that accompanied both initiatives.
The second factor relates to an institution’s ability to adapt and simplify its procedures and rules. At the IMSS, for example, rule simplification took place alongside the simplification of processes. This drew strongly on information and communication technology, in particular the use of advanced digital signatures, which made it possible to carry out the entire process digitally.
In Brazil, the INSS and DATAPREV rolled out a comprehensive solution, bringing about a digital transformation by simplifying internal rules and procedures as well as by merging the different databases. By doing so, they were able to offer an innovative solution encompassing the full service portfolio, with a strong emphasis on accessibility and the user experience.
In Peru, EsSalud has focused on continuously updating the VIVA platform, enabling it to respond to any needs that may arise. The pandemic, for example, made it necessary to incorporate new functionality at great speed.
In BPS’s case, establishing common processes, forms and systems across institutions was key to the success of the one-stop shops launched.
Lastly, the importance of developing a communication and dissemination strategy was clear. In Mexico, the IMSS focused its communications strategy on its customer service, orientation and awareness-raising processes. In Argentina, the AFIP sought to redefine its relationship with monotax contributors, based on the “Compliance is easy” principle.
One-stop shops are a tool increasingly employed by social security institutions. There are many different approaches to tackling them and the choice of approach depends to a large extent on the specific challenges and aims in each case.
Regardless of the approach taken, the benefits are clear. For citizens, one-stop shops offer time and money savings by reducing the need to carry out formalities in person. They also provide greater transparency. From an institutional perspective, they make interactions between citizens and the authorities more efficient and more effective by rationalizing processes, improving inter-departmental cooperation and, therefore, reducing costs. At the same time, the increased focus on the client boosts the image of and confidence in the public administration in general.
Every approach has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. A focus on a small number of services or a more specialist approach can be tailored to a specific group of clients and provide additional in-house services. On the other hand, a one-stop shop with greater reach enables services to be provided to a wider population, but specialist personnel are required to manage all of these services.
Likewise, a simple one-stop shop within a single institution or department requires less coordination and amalgamation and so can offer greater flexibility to meet the specific needs of a target group, while a complex one-stop shop working across more than one organization or department requires a greater level of control and standardization.
And while transformational one-stop shops are a good way of bringing about in-depth changes to internal procedures, they are far more difficult to implement.
In summary, online one-stop shops have proven to be a valuable and promising way of efficiently and effectively maximizing access to social security services. Existing one-stop shops provide access via the Internet and mobile devices, supported by user-identification options that allow for adequate restrictions on access.
Within the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, one-stop shops have also played a vital role in the remote provision of high-quality services when faced with the inability to carry out formalities in person.
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EsSalud - Social Health Insurance Institute. 2020. Virtual integrated platform for insured persons (VIVA) (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Federal Administration of Public Resources. 2020. Single portal for monotax contributors (monotributistas) (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2019a. ISSA Guidelines on service quality (Revised edition). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2019b. ISSA Guidelines on information and communication technology (Revised and extended edition). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Kubicek, H.; Hagen, M. 2001. One-stop-government in Europe: An overview. [S. l.].
Mexican Social Security Institute. 2020. My digital pension (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
National Social Security Institute. 2020. Meu INSS – Service centre (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
OECD. 2012. Recommendation of the Council on regulatory policy and governance. Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
OECD. 2020. One-stop shops for citizens and business (OECD best practice principles for regulatory policy). Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
UN. 2016. United Nations e-government survey: E-government for sustainable development. New York, NY, United Nations – Department of Economic and Social Affairs.