The Childcare Portal System
An integrated childcare portal system that enables real-time searches and online reservations by making information on childcare facilities available anytime, anywhere for residents wishing to use childcare services
Meetings were held to discover citizen-oriented demand for childcare administration.
In the past, policies were planned through the discussion of civil servants or at the will of policy decision makers. However, in 2008, efforts were expanded to draw up policies from the perspectives of consumers with the slogan, “Citizens are customers”. Periodic meetings were held to determine the administrative demands with the attendance of external experts from each area. The then department in charge of childcare in the Office of Women and Family Policy also held monthly discussion focusing on citizen-oriented administrative demands with the combined participation of government officers and concerned experts. In the ‘childcare-related meeting for the development of citizen-oriented policies’ held on June 22, 2008, the services most needed by citizens and people’s main concerns in the area of childcare administration were fully discussed, and the results of the meeting became the catalyst for implementing this project.
The purpose and necessity for the paradigm change of the daycare center management were shared.
The fact that the inappropriate actions related to the admissions waiting list placement to daycare centers filled the majority of civil complaints in the area of childcare, at that time indirectly showed that Seoul City’s daycare center management system did not operate properly. In a situation where a daycare center director had full powers over admissions, it was not easy to maintain the waiting list order; especially considering the supervisors only reviewed handwritten data and occasionally visited. As such, it was necessary that not only the supervisory organization, but also the daycare centers agree that a new system that publicly displays information online allowing applicants to view waiting list placement in real time was needed, while at the same time not limiting the power of the directors. It was also important to make them recognize that manipulating the waiting list order was a seriously offense. Thus, much time and effort was spent to create a consensus by holding numerous meetings and seminars with the participation of the officials in charge at supervisory organizations, such as Seoul City government and autonomous districts, daycare center staff, and the staff in the central government working in the area of childcare administration.
Demands were heard and functions were expanded in each stage of development.
The system was developed in stages. First, the database of daycare centers was established with the basic information necessary for the management of the waiting list. Separately from the development of the system, the service was improved by expanding the childcare service for handicapped children and the facilities for part-time childcare, while also extending the hours of childcare. Even during the development process of the system, functions were expanded by immediately accepting ideas and opinions from citizens, such as the website for handicapped children, pictures of the meals, and daycare location information. The functions have continued to be expanded through surveys that addressed the demands for childcare since the opening of the system in 2009, including IP-TV service that began in the first half of 2010.
The system is being expanded through cooperation with the central government.
Through the system’s stable establishment, it received much attention from the press, as well as other autonomous governments, childcare-related organizations, etc. Especially, the Ministry of Public Administration & Safety decided to spread the childcare portal system of Seoul City to local autonomous governments throughout the nation, and completed the nationally connected service system in 2010 in cooperation with Seoul City. Recently, an annual public contest started held by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security for the development of a website that can offer information on all the daycare centers throughout the nation using the childcare portal system of Seoul City. In addition, many autonomous governments including Gyeonggi-do Province, Busan City, and Gyeongsangnam-do Province have asked Seoul City to help their benchmarking effort, and in fact, Gyeonggi-do Province is currently establishing its own childcare portal system.
Online Real-time Childcare Facility Reservation Services
Setting up an online information search and real-time reservation system to provide childcare services so that the city can provide its citizens with all the necessary information on childcare services and reservations can be made in real time anytime, anywhere.
Childcare Facility Information Management System
Enhancing the convenience of citizens by providing detailed information on childcare facilities available in their respective areas.
Establishment of Systems for Childcare Facility Inspections and Subsidy Irregularities Diagnosis
Setting up a system that enables officials in charge to carry out regular and special inspections efficiently and manage the records electronically.
Childcare Facility Statistics Management Services
Setting up a user-oriented system with statistics on childcare facility users and their use patterns.
Online Checking Services of Childcare Facility Waiting Lists
Setting up a system that enables waiting parents to check their reservations and their waiting status in real time.
Multi-child Family Childcare Allowance Support System
Computerizing the payment of multi-child family childcare allowances including application, payment, and statistics management to streamline all the payment processes involved.
Online Babysitter Reservation System
Setting up an online babysitter reservation system so that households requiring temporary babysitting services can get safe, economical babysitting services.
BACKGROUND & GOAL
Citizen distrust waiting list placement for daycare centers caused frequent civil complaints.
As of October 2008, the number of national and public daycare centers in Seoul was 557, 89.1% of the total 625 daycare centers. The number of wishful infants put on the waiting list totaled 7,315– 131 infants on average per center. The infants would typically wait for approximately 2 years before they were admitted. Due to this situation, some applications were made for babies yet to be born. Yet, more serious than this problem, was that placement on the waiting list was often changed due to requested favors, causing corruption, which in turn triggered civil complaints and reduced people’s trust in such services. The rampant absurdities regarding the waiting list placement issues were likely due to the management system, which left the management of each waiting list to individual facilities, and the public office’s subsequent struggle to oversee them. In addition, documents related to the waiting list were recorded by hand, which allowed them to be easily doctored. Furthermore, the people had no choice, but to depend on the placement notifications by the daycare center, and thus it easily amplified doubts and complaints whether there was corruption or not. At that time, most of the civil complaints were chronic ones, and it was difficult to solve them, and they were adopted as an agenda item to be discussed in the city council. In addition, reports by the mass media about discrepancies in the waiting list related to individuals in higher social positions further aggravated distrust and complaints.
Inconveniences for citizens increased and the right to choose was restricted due to the lack of a general system that could provide information.
Even before this program was implemented, more than 30 websites were available to provide information on childcare and childrearing. They were not able to provide comprehensive information due to separately being operated by each affiliate organization or segmented for each area, and they were also not used regularly. Parents had to visit each facility in person in order to obtain basic information such as the extent of the childcare service, tuition, educational courses, etc., not to mention insurance coverage and meals, which is essential parental information. As a result, the inconveniences of citizens increased, especially for working couples who desperately needed childcare service, but could not find the time to collect information. Parents often need to comprehensively review various categories of information on childcare facilities. However, due to the lack of support services, they had no choice, but to simply hand in applications for national and public daycare centers and wait, thinking that they were at least cheap and reliable.
Shortcomings in childcare occurred due to the lack of an effective tool to publicize the services.
There were various services in operation, such as the special childcare service for handicapped children, or the children of multicultural families. Childcare services offered emergency assistance during nights and holidays, and part-time childcare service that was only available for necessary scheduled hours. However, in many cases neither service was used due to the lack of information disseminated to the public regarding the facilities that provided such services. As a result, only those who were aware of the services received most of the public service benefits, and the groups of people who needed the services the most were alienated. Thus, the necessity for a comprehensive information system to cope with the real demand was needed.
The management of inspection results, etc. by handwritten records reduced work efficiency.
Though various organizations were supervising the operation and management of daycare centers, they could not share data as the status and results of inspection were input and managed by hand. As a result, sometimes the same facility was unnecessarily inspected by many organizations causing inefficiency.
1. A ‘transparent system’ was established to eradicate the root of corruption in advance.
It was essential to secure a transparent system in order to quickly recover the distrust caused by the obscure management of waiting list placements. With a system that received the handwritten applications for admission and in which the daycare directors handled directly, it was impossible to manage all the daycare centers systematically and recover the trust of citizens. Therefore, it was decided to establish an online information system with which parents could submit applications and see their placement waiting lists using Internet resources that could easily access the information. The strategy was to resolve the distrust by providing a transparent system, allowing citizens to personally view the information and answer any questions. Such strategy was the motive of the project and it became the most important basis for the success of the project.
2. A ‘convenient system’ was established to give citizens easy access to information at all times.
Though the number of daycare centers continues to increase, the educational environment such as the number of classes and children, content of education, and the level of meals are quite different among facilities. Thus, it has become a very important task for parents to be able to discern a good daycare center for their needs. As complete and accessible information is a basic requirement for the comparison and choosing of daycare centers, it is necessary to have adequate and convenient access to the daycare center information. In particular, it was necessary to establish a convenient and easy online information system, as to not alienate the parents of handicapped children or working couples who have relatively limited time to access information despite desperately needing childcare services. Hence, the system was designed to make it possible to search for childcare facility information anytime, anywhere, as well as make reservations, and apply for services, even for special childcare service.
3. A ‘demand-response system’ was established to meet various childcare demands.
With the quantitative increase in childcare service, the demand for diversified childcare services such as special childcare service for handicapped children or children of multicultural families, childcare service during the nights and weekends, and childcare service for specific time periods is increasing, too. However, it had been not easy finding appropriate special services since the facilities that offered this type of care were few and far between within Seoul. Therefore, the types of facilities that offered special childcare services were expanded and their status was made specifically searchable through the online system in order to effectively address the changing demands.
4. An ‘effective system’ was established to improve the management of childcare service.
Without proper supervision of facility management, the children will suffer the most. As a way to manage the quality of childcare service through the establishment of a systematic supervision system, Seoul City publicly made available all information related to daycare centers and encouraged all daycare centers to set up their own websites to improve the environment of childcare through competition among daycare centers.
Obstacles And Overcome Method
1. The negative views of the concerned persons at daycare centers were resolved through multilateral persuasion and collection of public opinions.
It was the biggest task to obtain the sympathy of the daycare staff, especially the directors. The directors of daycare centers, who have complete control over admission, may have thought that the project would restrict their powers, and objections were expected. Thus, the city held public hearings with the participation of the daycare staff, including the directors, as well as with ordinary citizens to help them become aware of the situation and understand the necessity of the project. Meetings with the daycares were frequently held to share the system’s direction and development and to come up with solutions allowing them to feel like partners moving towards an innovative childcare administration. Through this teamwork, a consensus was formed with a view that the system was not enforced by the public sector, but it was a project that could make a social change through understanding and cooperation. Furthermore, this resulted positively as it increased trust in individual daycare centers and their staff, reduced time spent responding to civil complaints, and increased demand. Demand also increased as a result of the facilities and PR actively working together to resolve the negative attitudes.
2. Citizens’ confusion about the new system was overcome through active PR.
More than 200,000 children are using daycare centers within Seoul, and more than 100,000 children are on waiting lists. Thus, with so many using the system it was not easy to publicize the new system to such a wide range of interested individuals. Especially during the early stage, those who had already submitted the handwritten applications had to re-register according to the compulsory online application, and the citizens who could not adjust to the unfamiliar system made complaints. However, the system was established without much confusion through active PR activities, including direct website guidance, posting notices in the neighborhood meeting newsletters, and hanging instructional posters at all of the daycare centers.
3. Multilateral consultations were held to break the practice of handwritten documentation.
The handwritten documentation at daycare centers was a public administration practice that had been for years. The work of finding handwritten records and entering them to establish the childcare portal system would not only increase the workload for the supervisors, but also increase their worries about the process in general. Despite the anxiety of individuals in charge, it was impossible to operate the system without their necessary information. Therefore Seoul City continued the process of joint consultation with the participation of the city government civil servants, the civil servants in autonomous districts, and the concerned officials of the central government who desire to use the childcare portal system of Seoul City as a model for local public administration throughout the nation. Each of the government organizations made joint efforts in the multilateral cooperation model by sharing roles: Seoul City led the planning and establishment of the system; the central government provided support with equipment necessary to establish the system; and the autonomous districts took responsibility for the provision and registration of information.
The biggest resource in this project of establishing the childcare portal system of Seoul City is information. The innovative model greatly improved the quality of service and achieved a transparent management method using the existing information effectively with new technologies and human resources. The project showed how important it is to use and open information effectively in the provision of a public service. The information put into this system includes the existing data of more than 30 websites of daycare centers, and the data of daycare centers and children within the ‘integrated information system’ of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The system contains all the information on all daycare centers located in Seoul, their operators and employees, the children attending them, and the children placed on the waiting list. Such integration of information was made possible through linking various information networks related to childcare with the close cooperation of the government. Furthermore, information usage increased by integrating the data scattered in each area and organization without additional costs. In addition, information about the exact locations of the daycare centers is provided using the aerial map of the ‘geographical information system’ of Seoul City.
Expenses were minimal for the system as it pursued the effective linkage and operation of information. The total expenses spent for the implementation of the project was 50 million won, which was used for the establishment of the system. No employment of additional manpower or input of expense was necessary for the registration of the existing information as it was done personally by involved individuals, such as Seoul City civil servants and their autonomous district counterparts working in the area of childcare, as well as the directors and teachers at the daycare centers. The civil servants in charge were the driving force behind the success of the system and made efforts to raise the transparency of public administration, reveal the information to resolve citizens’ hardships, and register the existing handwritten documents into the system for the practical operation of the childcare portal system.
The most innovative technology adopted to guarantee the transparent operation of daycare centers was the IP-TV system, which can monitor the situation at daycare centers in real time. Daycare centers were encouraged to install CCTVs and images from the CCTVs are able to be seen through IP-TV, allowing parents to trust the daycare center staff to protect and educate their children without shameful actions such as child abuse. In addition, to achieve the management of the admissions placement waiting list to daycare centers, which was the principal goal, the system is able to update the status and number of applications at each daycare center in real time so that the applicants themselves could see their placement immediately, and there was also a function to receive notifications by SMS. The application process for utilizing emergency childcare service is also managed through the website, and availability is immediately notified via SMS. This project is more significant in that it was realized through the usage of the existing information, human resources, and civil technological power for the innovative improvement in childcare administration including the enhancement in the transparency of childcare administration and improved convenience in citizens’ use of information.
RESULT AND EVALUATION
Elevated trust in public administration by entirely blocking the corruption related to daycare center admissions.
The largest contribution of this program is that it aided in the eradication of daycare admission issues. The previous system of receiving applications directly at each daycare center was changed to make it compulsory to send the application for the daycare center through the childcare portal system, and information about waiting list placement is available online. As a result, the causes for civil complaints or conflicts regarding waiting list placement were significantly reduced, and the potential for corruption was completely prevented. In fact, since the introduction of the childcare portal system in January 2009, there have been no daycare admission scandals, which displays an important positive effect of the system.
The reasonable quality of childcare environments is maintained by inducing autonomous competition in childcare services and tuition.
Currently, information about the tuition, level of facility, meal status, etc. of all daycare centers in Seoul is open to the public to encourage competition in good faith among facilities, and to help citizens receive necessary services at reasonable prices. In the past, the information on childcare services and tuition was difficult to obtain unless one personally visited the facility to gather such information. Thus, there were no tools to assist consumers in evaluating the daycare centers or compare the services against the tuition costs. Currently, with the public posting of the tuition information, facilities and service level, and even meal status on the childcare portal system, the system promotes the evaluation of the facilities through a comprehensive comparison. As a result, the competition encouraged improvements in the centers.
Awareness of unreasonable situations among those who are related to childcare administration has changed.
In the past, the director of the childcare center managed the waiting list and any related details, and thus, since all changes occurred at the discretion of the director, staff persons at the childcare centers were unconcerned about the changes or the responses from those affected. Awareness of such changes caused negative situations and civil complaints. However, the waiting list order became transparent with the implementation of the childcare portal system, and was recognized as public information. As a result, the officials in charge of childcare and the staff in daycare centers came to a consensus that cutting in line on the waiting list is considered anti-social corruption.
An effective guidance and management system between Seoul City government and autonomous districts has been established by sharing information in real time.
The childcare portal system has contributed to the establishment of an effective guidance and management system for the transparent management of daycare centers. The information on guidance and inspection, which used to be managed by handwritten data has been computerized through an online system to be shared by various supervising organizations including Seoul City government and autonomous districts, and has contributed to the elimination of inefficient working practices including overlapped inspections.
Various demands for childcare service were met effectively, and customized childcare services are now delivered with full effect.
The childcare portal system offers a one-stop service for childcare related needs, from real-time information on daycare centers including the application for the admission, reservation for special care services and monitoring. Furthermore, parents can use it conveniently from work or home. The system realistically fits the lifestyles of consumers, for whom time is a precious asset. Consumer preferences and opinions have been actively reflected in the system. As a result, customized services have been increased by expanding the number of daycare centers that provide emergency childcare service during nights and holidays, as well as daycare centers for handicapped children or children in multicultural families. It also provides a website for visually handicapped children. In addition, innovative services such as real-time broadcasting from classrooms of centers through IP-TV and displaying the contents of childcare programs as well as photos of nutritious meals for children to the public.
A virtuous cycle occurred with the improvement in corruption-related recognition.
As a result of the implementation of the project, the recognition that the inappropriate actions in the management of daycare waiting lists was anti-social corruption was accepted, and both individuals involved at daycare centers and the civil servants in charge of childcare administration focused on avoiding poor choices related to daycare center admission. Consequently, the issues related to the daycare center admission were eliminated after the implementation of the project in 2009, thus increasing the integrity in the area of childcare, and contributing to making Seoul City rank first in the evaluation of the degree of integrity conducted in 2010 for 16 metropolitan cities and provinces by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission.
The effects have been spread to private companies and their services.
Originally this project was launched with the purpose of transparently managing the admissions placement waiting list to daycare centers focusing on applications. However, the problem of extended wait lists for national and public daycare centers was caused by parents’ distrust in private services, their relatively higher trust in public facilities, and the difference in the tuition between public and private facilities. It was essential to enhance the image of private services together with the transparent management of national and public daycare centers. Therefore, the project was implemented with the goal of making public information from all daycare centers including private daycare centers, and it was realized through persuasion and communication. The success of the project was made possible through in-depth analysis of the phenomenon of the relatedsocialproblems,and attempts to resolve the problem of the management of public facilities in connection with the improvement in private services, and the actual change in the recognition and services of private companies.
As this project improved the system of facility management through transparent management of information, it did not cause large-scale financial burdens. The cost to establish the website in the initial stage of the project is the only cost to implement this system. If there is an existing childcare-related website, it is possible to make this system adding necessary additions, such as the application for admission, waiting list placement, providing information about childcare service and facilities, and making a reservation for services. It is also a desirable project in social and economic aspects as it can reduce various civil complaints related to inappropriate actions regarding the admission to childcare centers and the social costs spent to resolve the distrust of the public administration. It also saves parents time and effort from having to collect childcare center information.
In addition, the worldwide need for special childcare services is increasing as the number of family members able to take care of the babies decreases. With the increase of working couples and multicultural families as the societies become more modern, most domestic and overseas cities naturally require more advanced public childcare systems. Therefore, the press and other government agencies are extremely interested in the childcare portal system of Seoul City, which has been performing exceptionally in the aspects of transparent management of childcare centers, effective delivery of differentiated and diversified childcare service, prompt provision of the information on daycare centers and their services, etc. In fact, other metropolitan governments including Gyeonggi-do Province and Busan City have consulted to benchmark this system, and the system received a presidential award for its superiority. In addition, the Ministry of Public Administration & Security, which takes charge of all local governments and public services, actively contributed to the establishment of the open API childcare portal system by donating the system equipment to Seoul City free of charge after deciding to spread the system throughout the nation as a superior system in the area of childcare administration. After the implementation of the childcare portal system, its many merits including the elimination of the poor decisions related to the daycare center admissions, simple application process, and reservation for the usage of service were highlighted to be introduced in not only daily newspapers, but also in childcare-related magazines and broadcasting stations.
From an institutional vantage, the system is a definite success. As the transparency in the operation of daycare centers can be guaranteed continuously by systemizing effective management tools for the promotion of the change in the system and recognition rather than through nominal management or a one-off management program, the system is highly appreciated for its results of contributing more than simple systematic improvement or establishment of norms through only a single online system.
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