“We are thoroughly impressed by the online ID function”
Manuela Kroeger is Project Manager eGovernment at the German Pension Insurance Association (DRV) – and must face challenges with each new day. That’s because demand for digital pension information and other services has grown strongly in recent years. Insured persons can access their data primarily using the online ID function of their ID card. We spoke with her about IT security, modernization of the public administration and the digital pension overview planned for October 2022.
About the online ID function for digital pension information
Back in 1992, you started out as a trainee with the predecessor to the German Pension Insurance Association and had no obvious background in IT. When did your focus shift to digital government services?
During my work in the payments department, I trained our staff and got to know their crunch points at first hand, and digital processes were definitely part of that. And I heard from customers who wanted to reach us by e‑mail – something that was already common practice when dealing with my private insurance company at that time. So that’s when I began thinking that I would like to improve our customer communication and reduce paperwork. It was the reason why I applied to the policy department of DRV Bund in 2009 to try my hand at eGovernment which was a rather unknown topic at that time.
What did “rather unknown" mean at that time
It meant that although the first digital services already existed, hardly anyone used them. So, I didn't start entirely from scratch, but I saw that we still had a long way to go.
Since 2012, in your position of eGovernment project manager you have been responsible for almost the entire online offering of DRV and you have introduced several new services. Which ones are the most popular?
The most frequently used services include insurance history and pension information. Another popular service is our pension payment notification and our electronic mailbox. We currently have over 152,000 registered users – across all age groups.
What has the feedback been like?
Our online services have been linked to a survey tool since April of this year. There has been some negative feedback, for example, when services are not available around the clock or when customers think it takes too long to process applications. But we also receive a lot of praise as well as one or two requests for new services.
Since 18 February 2011, insured persons have been able to access your services online using their ID card. How has this authentication option been received?
Since the end of 2014, our customers have been able to use their smartphone as a card reader with AusweisApp2 and the number of customers using this solution is growing. The advantages speak for themselves as the vast majority of registered users login using the online ID function.
What kind of feedback have you received on the topic of authentication with the ID card?
Most of these inquiries are related to first-time use. And, depending on which terminal a customer logs in with, it then usually becomes very model-specific. Once they have gotten started – and AusweisApp2 has made this much easier – customer feedback is positive. Sometimes, customers are surprised at what they can do with their ID card and how quickly they can access the services they want. There are many eGovernment services available in this country that require a high level of authentication, but in the end only work together with the postal service. We, on the other hand, rely on a continuous process without media disruptions. Anyone wishing to view their pension information logs in using their ID card and can view everything directly on the screen.
Are there any questions regarding why password authentication is not sufficient?
Certainly. However, retrieving social security data places high demands on data protection and IT security levels. Up to now, these requirements, which focus on two-factor authentication, have only been met by registration using electronic proof of identity or signature cards. The German Pension Insurance Association has been involved in the work on the online ID function from the very beginning in the then user group of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community. We are thoroughly impressed by this solution.
Are digital services also beneficial for DRV itself?
Definitely. From a purely financial standpoint alone: Every time we issue pension information in writing, this costs us €1.58 in postage and dispatch. This figure does not even include printing costs. The amount of money that could be saved given the theoretically ten million pension information notices that could be processed entirely online each year is enormous. Our staff also benefit from this since no administrator is required in most cases to retrieve the data from a user’s account. This means that our colleagues can turn to more complex tasks, especially when changes in the law are imminent.
In October 2022, a digital pension overview is to be published listing all pension benefits, both statutory and private. This is designed to be a decentralized solution. What will it look like?
A customer portal is planned, which DRV will develop and provide. It is the point of entry for every insured person. Whenever someone requests their digital pension overview, this customer portal sends a request to all places from which this person receives a pension, be it a statutory pension, company pension or private pension insurance. As soon as the agencies have transmitted their data, the customer receives the overview. The exciting question now, of course, is how fast this will be. Service on demand would be ideal, but the various insurance providers are at different stages of digitalization. Therefore, it will probably take some time for the customer to receive notification when the overview is available. Please note that as soon as the insured person has viewed their pension overview, we delete the data. There are no plans to permanently store this data.