Panama: A cultural shift in service

16 December 2013 | Ángel L. Pérez, Vice President, Rock Solid Technologies, Inc.

In the current economic times, constituents look to their governments for strong leadership and innovative services. The public sector needs to address societal challenges and deliver efficient services in a more cost effective way. The Government of the Republic of Panama decided to make a cultural shift in service. This is their story.

In 2009, as part of the initial projects undertaken by the current administration, Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama, focused on changing the government’s communication model with citizens.  While looking for alternatives, Rodolfo Caballero, Citizen Services National Director, presented the idea of using a 3-1-1 tool to reach out to citizens. The local Microsoft office recommended their partner, Rock Solid Technologies (Rock Solid), for the implementation of this tool since Rock Solid had already implemented it in nearly 20 municipalities around Puerto Rico and in two counties in the United States of America.

Rock Solid and the National Citizen Services Center of Panama started working together towards reducing the bureaucracy in the management of citizen services. This was done through the implementation of a 3-1-1 solution, RESPOND©, built over the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. For the first time in Panama’s history, the President decided to create a Citizen Services Center, clearly demonstrating the first step towards its objective of improving communication with citizens.

Prior to the implementation, citizens had no proper channels for addressing grievances, complaints, or suggestions to the government. Their former service centers, within agencies, lacked the technology and the procedures to effectively address reported incidents. For the Panamanians, searching for the correct government contact was very challenging. They lacked a centralized call center responsible for addressing the calls, and phone calls were costly for the citizens given the cost-per-minute charges. Submitting a service request by phone was a difficult process. The situation not only affected their quality of life but also entailed a significant cost to the government.

The project was designed to create a single service center that would provide service to all agencies. In Panama, citizen inquiries are now received from three sources: 3-1-1 (phone), a website, and e-mail. In six months, half of the government agencies that intake citizens’ concerns were operating with RESPOND©. Over four million calls have been received so far.

With RESPOND©, response time improved from minutes to just 15 seconds, streamlining processes while providing accurate records of citizen complaints and enabling citizen services automation and management. Panama went from a government ill prepared to address citizen concerns to a well-informed government. Now the current administration can generate dashboard reports with complete visibility of all mission-critical information in a centralized manner. Real-time data on requests, complaints, and services allow Panama to do “new with less” by allowing for better and immediate allocation of resources and personnel. In addition, government officials are able to establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that help to monitor the time required to deliver each service against predefined goals. 

The establishment of a single service center reflects a Panama moving towards a community-oriented government. With the deployment of RESPOND©, the government is improving its ability to allocate resources and personnel across agencies, and its efficiency by replacing processes performed on paper with computerization.

Ángel L. Pérez
Vice President, Rock Solid Technologies, Inc.