How Roeselare plans to simplify service operation and delivery through a blockchain-enabled solution
Jasmien Wellens – Stad Roeselare, Belgium
In a review of municipal processes in 2022, the City of Roeselare in Belgium identified several processes that could potentially be made more efficient and effective through the adoption of blockchain-enabled tools and processes. Following this review Roeselare decided to develop a proof of concept to see how the management and administration processes of the City’s Leisure Pass could be improved by the adoption of a blockchain-enabled solution, such as a personal digital wallet.
Every two years Roeselare issues a Leisure Pass (Vrijetijdspas) to citizens who have limited incomes, as defined by their health insurance fund. This pass provides access to services provided through the city at a significant discount, including some holiday activities, sports, membership fees, tickets, service registration, and discounted courses and activities. This means it is much cheaper to access a range of services if you have a Leisure Pass.
At the moment, the process for service providers to claim back costs for discounted activities is manual and not digitised, and is open to errors and the risk of inaccurate claims. The providers/ owners of pools/theatres/youth activities etc. must tell the City what discount they’ve awarded and to how many people, and then the Roeselare reimburses the providers.
As the process isn’t digitised, the city has to trust that the partner organisation is telling them the truth about the number of users.
City staff need to manually check with every participating organisation to get the number of Leisure Pass users, but if it’s digitalised then this data collection and payment could become automatic.
The city is not allowed to know who has a pass – addresses are anonymised by the Health Insurance Department of the City – so a policy officer can’t see who has low income for example, and they are not allowed to track users. In practice, this means that the city has a very limited understanding of who is using the Leisure Pass service and how effective it is – e.g. whether all age groups and genders are using it, or if certain sections of the population use it more than others.
Roeselare’s priority is to be able to understand how the Leisure Pass is being used in practice, and to make sure the right target groups
are using it. The Leisure Pass includes a personal identifier that encodes the user’s age and gender, and Roeselare aims to be able to work with this anonymised data through a privacy-focused solution to better understand the number of users and their age and gender.
Given the need for user privacy, the need to develop a more robust record of service use, and the need to add trust to the network, Roeselare identified Leisure Pass as an appropriate set of processes that could be significantly improved by a blockchain-enabled solution.
Roeselare’s proof of concept development process
In August 2022 Roeselare worked with all the participating stakeholders to finalise a process map for the Leisure Pass, mapping out how the process works and how different parties were involved in service delivery. The City is now running workshops with Policy Officers to identify what their service needs are and to finalise a vision for what the ‘best version’ of the Leisure Pass would be.
Roeselare’s development of a blockchain solution is being supported by Cronos, a specialised blockchain consultancy.
When talking to stakeholders and partners and interviewing with citizens Roeselare deliberately didn’t highlight the potential use of a blockchain-enabled solution, choosing to focus instead on the challenges they faced and the problems they’d like addressed.
Cronos are developing a prototype of the service for Roeselare, which will be tested with citizen users and partner organisations in mid 2023. Once the prototype is completed Roeselare will be looking to calculate the cost savings of a shift to a blockchain-enabled solution. If the proof of concept is successful, Roeselare’s Strategic Unit will propose the adoption of a revised service to local politicians after the 2024 local elections.
This is an example of how projects like BLING continue to have direct impacts on service design and on service delivery well the project has finished. The increases in local government skills and capacity resulting from
projects like BLING have direct and indirect long-term impacts.