Towards the simplification of public services

2 September 2022

Stephanie Dheur and Sarah De Cock, respectively Project Manager and Communications Manager at – the agency responsible for administrative simplification in the Brussels-Capital Region – aim to implement a philosophy of simplification within regional institutions in order to reduce the administrative burden on citizens and businesses.

The agency joined a few months ago the UserCentriCities project, which just launched its latest output: the Service Design Toolkit, a must-have for anyone interested in introducing a user-centric approach to the design of digital public services.

Could you give an example of your work that illustrates user-centricity?

Stephanie Dheur, Project Manager at easy.brussel

A project that we have recently carried out is the Local Registration Authority (LRA). It’s an application that the different Brussels municipalities can use to quickly and easily assign a secure and unique code to citizens so that they can connect to the online services of the administration.

Sarah De Cock, Communications Manager at

In Belgium, all citizens with an electronic identification card (e-ID) can access all online public services. Still, a whole group of users does not have the ability to use it. They may have lost or not have access to one, for example, in the case of expatriates. But they need to access most services too. For instance, during the pandemic, people needed their e-ID to be able to download the Covid Safety Ticket.

The LRA is a solution developed at the federal level and can be used by other authorities; for example, municipalities can directly assign the LRA code.

Stephanie Dheur

Until June 2021, only one Brussels municipality out of 19 proposed this alternative. So, our job was to convince more local governments within the Brussels Region to integrate it among the solutions they already offered.

Why was only one municipality offering the LRA?

Stephanie Dheur

We realised that the communication with the administrations had not been effective enough, as we encountered obstacles related to change and fear of having an additional workload. There was a misunderstanding about the time and resources they needed to invest. The LRA doesn’t need the administration to adapt to new technology or spend money to implement it. The municipality needs to teach officers how to create and assign the code; that’s it.

Sarah De Cock

In some cases, administrations resist online services for fear of having to let people go. However, that’s not the case. On the contrary, digitalisation gives officers more time to care for people who can’t follow procedures online, need more help, or for more complex processes that can’t be completely digitalised. It’s a win-win.

Stephanie Dheur

So, we concentrated our efforts on explaining to local administrations what the technology entailed and convincing them to use it.

Has it worked?

Stephanie Dheur

Only four municipalities in the Brussels Region still don’t offer the LRA. We are also proud to observe that some local administrations now provide this solution for all citizens – the service is not limited to the residents of their municipality.

Why is user-centricity important?

Sarah De Cock

We want to simplify the interactions between users and administrations. That’s at the heart of our mission, our philosophy, so it’s essential for us. It drives all our actions.

When we were working on the LRA, what we wanted to achieve was to really include the user in the reflection and not just tell the municipality: “here’s a new service you can offer”.

So, to propose a new service is to bring arguments – and support local administrations – to reach out to users. For this, we have been helped by our partners like SPF BOSA and Brulocalis.

How does that look in practice?

Sarah De Cock

We produce communication materials for the administrations, and we train officers. Our global strategy covers digital inclusion, a subject on which we also collaborate with the Brussels Regional Informatics Centre. It helps us with direct communication and training for users.

In a project like this, it’s crucial to work with local partners. is the initiator, but cities really put things into place. And we are grateful for all our partners. Everyone, at their level, works at simplifying the administration.

Why did you join UserCentriCities?

Sarah De Cock

We have a common objective: putting the users’ needs at the centre of our projects and improving their everyday life.

What did you learn thanks to the project?

Sarah De Cock

We regularly benchmark before each project and analyse what happens elsewhere. UserCentriCities allows us to do that on an even bigger scale. The Dashboard shows us how to position ourselves compared to the rest of the European Union. It shows us where we can improve, what indicators we weren’t considering, which projects are worth considering and how to develop them.

The project is an entry point to identify contacts that can help us advance in our initiatives. We get inspired by what others have done, saving us time. Because things tend to move slowly in the public sector, seeing that something has worked elsewhere allows us to push our administration to be more ambitious.

Stephanie Dheur

We also work directly with the Minister to simplify the administration, and we can bring new project ideas to him based on the inspiration we also get from UserCentriCities.

Is there anything that struck you during your exchanges with other UserCentriCities partners?

Sarah De Cock

All states, regions and cities are subject to European obligations, so it’s interesting to see how others implement these. Not everyone is at the same stage of development. Some are way more advanced in their digitalisation, but as European users, we would like to have the same access to public services throughout the Union.

That’s a challenge for the project. We must all get to the same stage or propose the same services using a similar procedure. For example, the project of a Single Digital Gateway – a European platform that would allow citizens, businesses and NGOs to access different administrative processes – is a long-term project. But initiatives such as UserCentriCities can be the stepping stone towards it.

For more on UserCentriCities, to find out what other cities are doing and to have a look at the tools developed within the project visit:


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer