The Netherlands has a long history of water management, owing to a significant proportion of its landmass being below sea level. At present, there are 22 regional water management authorities in the country. One such water management authority is Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier (HHNK) which partially relies on citizens’ taxes to carry out its important work. Recently, HHNK created an online tax portal using WSO2’s integration platform, which reduced costs, improved efficiency and transparency, and facilitated a simpler tax payment process for Dutch citizens.
HHNK is responsible for various activities - building dams and dikes, sewage water purification, road safety (as some of these routes are based along dams and dykes), water storage, and crisis management. They engage with 1.2 million citizens and 30,000 companies who pay taxes, has water control assets amounting to 1,000 miles of embankments, 17,771 miles of canals, and overlooks an area of approximately 500,000 acres of land.
The digitization of the tax payment process has its beginnings in 2013, when the Dutch Government introduced a policy stating that all services offered by government agencies must be carried out electronically. At the same time, HHNK was also looking at ways to improve services to citizens. On assessing their technology architecture, they realized that there was minimal integration and a large number of applications (around 400 in fact at the time). HHNK was looking to implement a service oriented architecture (SOA) with decoupling and reusability of services along with a canonical data model. “People accessed data from an application, which was then taken to another application for uploading. This process resulted in errors at times. When there was integration, it was mostly point to point and we suffered a lot of vendor lock-in. By striving to an SOA and loosely coupled applications, we are now far more flexible than in the past,” elaborates Michel Zwart, Enterprise Architect at HHNK.
The architecture, developed and implemented together with Yenlo (a WSO2 Premier Certified Partner), is comprised of back office applications providing tax services when users log-in to the portal. Specialized applications are in place for communications, archiving, and other services, such as the residence service for information collection. Business application services were built using WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus.
The new system has delivered wins for residents, employees, and HHNK. The portal is user-friendly, not only making the tax payment process convenient for citizens, but encouraging them to make their payments on time as well. The portal is transparent and provides an online statement of accounts for taxpayers. As for HHNK, they have been able to make some big cost savings. Telephone calls have reduced by 25%, saving them around €40,000 a year due to the presence of the online statement of accounts. They have managed to save about €350,000 a year on hiring costs through the reduction of internal resources, and lower banking costs as a result of direct online transfers. Overall, HHNK has experienced a total cost reduction between €400,000 to €600,000 a year.
There is more good news - HHNK even won an award for providing 100% digitally available services. With these successes, HHNK is looking ahead, and there are plans to introduce WSO2’s API Manager into their architecture. “We will continue to innovate with WSO2,” says Michel.
Watch Michel’s presentation below for a more in-depth discussion of how HHNK digitized their tax payment process.
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