On the road with the Digital expedition: Sombor
Services tailored to citizens
July 3, 2023
Queues, crowds, wandering the offices and going back to where you started because of a ‘missing paper’ are ancient history in the Sombor Town Administration. Most administrative tasks in this town are handled in one room, i.e., at a point of single contact. Construction or entrepreneurship business, local task administration, child and social care, issuing certificates from various registries and reception of submissions have been distributed across 12 help desks. In addition to this, electronic exchange of data and documents between public authorities made this streamlined system even more efficient. All of this saves time and significantly cuts costs for Sombor residents.
Luka Plećaš was positive he would need a day or even two to get his provisional driving licence issued, but he got everything done in ten minutes. “They’re really quick about it, it isn’t like it was before. You bring your ID, payment order, you pay the fee and that’s it. All in one room.” The fact that the police and post office have their desks in the same room only makes things more convenient.
“Sombor has been following the development of citizens’ needs for a number of years so the service centre can truly be a service for the citizens” town administration head Jelena Velebit explained. One of the first towns in Serbia to introduce a point of single contact hosted the Digital Expedition. The workshop for town administration employees was an opportunity for professionals to exchange experiences in working with citizens and eGovernment. “It was here that we heard how the instructions for applying to eAgrar were somehow more complicated than the actual application process. It turned out everything can be done in three clicks”, Jelena Velebit said and continued: “Let’s take passports for example. Once you came to the municipality building to ask what you needed to do, and then you’d go home to collect all of the documents, and then you’d go to the post office to pay the fee. Now you can do all of it electronically. I would also highlight the eBeba service. Once mothers would come to the municipality building with newborns, to register the baby in an office, and now they can register from the hospital. The birth certificate is sent to their home address. This is also an application for maternity allowance and it is really something that makes one’s life easier.”
Sombor’s specificity - the point of single contact - also proved to be efficient in local tax administration and social protection fields.
The map of social rights at the entrance explicitly and vividly shows to the citizens where to go to exercise their rights, so they don’t waste time in the wrong queue.
“You can initiate all four procedures available in the town administration at a single desk. These are the vulnerable energy customer status, the right to subsidised prices of utility services, the one-off assistance to unemployed parents and child benefit”, head Jelena Velebit specified.
The situation is similar in the case of taxes. When property changes ownership, a registration and approval are sufficient to for all the new data to be sent out to Sombor utility companies. This means that you can get everything done at the tax administration desk in the town administration office, instead of going to four different places. Svetlana Polić is in charge of the local tax administration: “The client just attaches a document and thereby reduces the need to come to our office and go to utility companies. We also have good cooperation with notaries public. They send us solemnised contracts via application. One or two days after solemnisation we get the documents, which enables citizens to get all of their tax-related duties to their address, without any need to come to us.”
Simplified procedures also imply savings. “We like it when citizens come in, we like talking to them. And there are always some citizens who will come in to ask about something in person, which of course is no intrusion. But the idea is also to cut down their costs because often people come over from remote villages, people who would perhaps have to pay for trip into town several times”, head Jelena Velebit said.
Efficiency in operation is the goal of every local government that cares about its citizens, and digital literacy and skills can only be beneficial to citizens. We found Jovanka Višinka at the Digital Expedition stand in Sombor, eager to hear more and learn something new: “I could hardly wait to become an eCitizen who can deal with all of the data and come to my data, so I can know what I am doing or not doing at any moment.” Jovanka continued, smiling: “I need it all for work, and also outside work. I manage my household’s books and keep accounts at the company, so it is important for me to be updated.”
Digital Expedition reached Sombor after Bor, Priboj, and Valjevo. It was started as an initiative of the Serbian Prime Minister, and is implemented with the support of the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs the Office for IT and eGovernment, in partnership with UNDP and the New Literacy Program implemented by "Propulsion” and USAID.