Bits: building a digital bridge between the public and private sectors

Itera Bits red symbol

Norway’s banks are sitting on large amounts of information about their customers, whether in the form of their transaction histories or how many bank accounts people have. The Norwegian Police Service, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the Norwegian Tax Administration are examples of public sector organisations that need banks’ data for their work, e.g. for investigations and case management purposes. Itera and Bits, which represents Norway’s banks, have now worked together to help make it easier for banks and public sector organisations to exchange data.

Although you may not have heard of Bits, every Norwegian is certain to have used one of its services. Bits’ primary task is to ensure Norway’s processing of payments and payment infrastructure are efficient. Payment infrastructure is what enables money, transactions and information to be exchanged seamlessly between different banks. It is what makes it possible for you as a customer of a bank to withdraw money from any ATM you like, and for transfers to be made between accounts at every different bank. It is thus not just infrastructure for banks, but for Norwegian society as a whole.

In just 12 weeks data was being exchanged more simply and securely

Bits asked Itera to develop a gateway to make it simpler for the finance industry and the public sector to exchange data. The project is part of the DSOP (Digital Samhandling Offentlig Privat) program, which is a collaborative program to digitalise important processes across society involving the Norwegian Tax Administration, the Brønnøysund Register Centre, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, the Norwegian Police Service and the financial industry. Bits represents the finance industry in the collaboration. The DSOP program will create significant value, will save organisations time and money, and will, importantly, help further digitalise Norway.

From definition to deployment, the first phase of the solution, called the DSOP Gateway, took just 12 weeks. An important premise defined at an early point was that using a cloud platform and DevOps was important to achieving the project’s commercial aims over both the short and the long term. On the basis of an architecture sprint involving a team of experts from Bits, Itera and Microsoft, we clarified the critical success factors, risks and objectives for the architecture and estimated the resources and costs associated with developing the first phase of the solution. Itera was responsible for designing, developing, testing, managing and operating the solution, which is on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform in order to achieve the very high level of scalability, security and reliability needed when data is being exchanged between financial institutions and public sector organisations.

The solution is currently used by three public sector organisations, namely the Norwegian Police Service, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, and the Norwegian Tax Administration, as well as by Norway’s banks, and going forward it may be expanded through the addition of new services to make it simpler for banks and even more public sector organisations to exchange data.

From a manual and time-consuming task to a quick and easy process

An example that illustrates how much easier exchanging data has become is provided by the change in the process that the Norwegian Police Service have to undertake when they need information on an individual’s bank accounts, which they have a statutory right to request from banks. Previously, the Norwegian Police Service would had to send a request for the information to Norway’s various banks, which normally would result in them receiving responses by letter through the post around a week later.

Reference Bits data.png

The process now looks rather different. Instead of sending a request to a range of banks to find out at which bank or banks the individual in question has an account, the Norwegian Police Service sends a digital request to the banks’ central register of bank accounts in Norway. The police’s systems then automatically send a request to the relevant banks and immediately receive the information they need. In order to create the solution between the finance industry and the various public sector organisations, the following new infrastructure components were needed, which Itera was tasked with developing for DSOP:

  • The customer relationship register (KFR), which contains information on customers of Norwegian banks not already included in the banking industry’s existing register of accounts and addresses (KAR).
  • The DSOP Gateway, which ensures the messaging formats are converted as required between the banks’ registers (KAR and KFR) and the public sector organisations’ systems.

Technology | Project Management

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