Promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies in administrative procedure simplification policies in the public sector: the Colombian experience
Last registered on January 29, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies in administrative procedure simplification policies in the public sector: the Colombian experience
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002681
Initial registration date
January 29, 2018
Last updated
January 29, 2018 5:50 PM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
CAF - Development Bank of Latin America
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Universidad de Los Andes
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-11-01
End date
2019-01-15
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Public Administration has seen a shift in its core conceptions and operational paradigm. The conventional (Weberian) bureaucracy model, based on the control philosophy, has been substituted by modern approaches, such as the New Public Management. These led to important changes in key aspects, like the way the citizenship is conceived: citizens are no longer seen as "users" of public services, but rather as "costumers", putting delivery as a key element to rate performance within the public sector.

In this sense, administrative procedures (AP) have become an important area for reforms, since a large part of public services is related to the emission of legal documents, certificates, permissions, records, among others. Therefore, efforts have been put in some countries to rationalize these procedures, looking for efficiency gains through the simplification and automation of the processes that lead to the generation of these documents.

The Colombian Department of Public Administration (DPA) is the public institution responsible for undertaking the AP simplification policy in this country. Two main objectives arise from this policy: to promote a more transparent relationship between the government and the citizenship; and to increase public management control and effectiveness. It is intended that both goals would lead to quality gains in public service regarding APs and to the decrease of acts of corruption.

As the first stage of the policy, an online web system, the "Sistema Único de Información de Trámites" (SUIT) was created to store all APs offered by public institutions. Afterwards, following stages include using this information to standardize and automate AP processes, and to eliminate those that either are no longer demanded or have no legal support.
Nevertheless, to proceed to further stages, all APs must be uploaded in SUIT, which means that more than 7000 public institutions must use correctly the system. This has been an ongoing problem, since only few institutions (16%) have actually achieved the desired goal of registering all their APs. That implies that, at this rate, it would take about 20 years to fulfill this task.

Since DPA's enforcement capacity is limited and its budgetary restrictions are tight, this institution has been looking for alternative and cost-effective solutions to encourage AP registration within public institutions. In this case, behavioral economics proposes interesting intervention options, being communications an especially fertile application field. According to this branch, it is possible to affect human behavior by designing messages that follow some simple and practical principles.

Departing from this, the present intervention aims on promoting AP registration using specially designed email messages sent to a sample of public institutions that have not totally uploaded their APs in SUIT. Specifically, two messages were designed, with different approaches: a deterrent message, focusing on the legal and economic costs of not registering their APs in SUIT; and a comparative message that appeals to the "herd effect", highlighting the number of public entities that have already registered most of their APs. In addition, both messages inform about the institutional and public benefits of this registration, and include a didactic video guide explaining how to register an AP in SUIT.

The total sample size consists of 2359 public institutions, divided in the following way: 787 receiving the deterrent message, 786 receiving the comparative message, and 786 not receiving any message (being, thus, the control group). Each group was randomly assigned under a blocking strategy based on the registration rate of each institution. This led to the definition of the following four strata: i) no advance (registration rate equal to 0%) represented by 856 institutions; ii) small advance (registration rate between 0.1 and 10%) conformed by 333 institutions; iii) medium advance (registration rate between 10.1 and 50%) including 559 institutions; iv) large advance (registration rate between 50.1 and 99.9%) listing 611 institutions.

The main impact variable is, naturally, the institution's AP registration rate in the SUIT, i.e. the percentage of AP from an institution that have been uploaded in the system. In addition, changes in other variables will be observed: advance rates throughout the different stages of the registration process, length of the registration process, number of interactions between the public entities and the DPA during the registration process, among others.

Concerning the implementation, a first emailing was done to all institutions included in the treatment group, using a massive email sending service. Thereafter, subsequent sending will take place with a periodicity depending on the observed evolution of the registration rates.

Information systems are indeed an important part of the modernization strategies that seek efficiency gains in the public sector. Nonetheless, past experiences have demonstrated that the technological progress is not enough to assure a better performance, since these tools have no impact if public institutions are not motivated or do not know how to use them properly. Therefore, policies that aim on this matter have to go beyond the acquisition of devices and systems, and include strategies to promote their use. In this context, the results of this evaluation will contribute to generate evidence on this issue, shedding light on the effectiveness of sending emails as a mechanism for this purpose.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
CAF, Pilar and Adriana Camacho. 2018. "Promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies in administrative procedure simplification policies in the public sector: the Colombian experience." AEA RCT Registry. January 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2681-1.0.
Former Citation
CAF, Pilar, Pilar CAF and Adriana Camacho. 2018. "Promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies in administrative procedure simplification policies in the public sector: the Colombian experience." AEA RCT Registry. January 29. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2681/history/25359.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
This intervention consists of periodical email sendings to public entities in order to encourage the registration of their administrative procedures (AP) in the "Sistema Único de Información de Trámites" (Unique System for Administrative Procedures Information), which is an online repository created as the first step of the Colombian AP simplification policy, headed by the Departamento Administrativo de Función Pública (Department of Public Administration). The main goal of this intervention is to achieve the registration of all existing APs in this system, so that the policy can advance to further stages, which include the priorization and rationalization of APs.

Regarding the intervention, two emails with different contents will be sent periodically to two different groups of public entities (one to each group) that have not succesfully uploaded all their APs in the SUIT. Both message contents were designed based on behavioral economics rationale, with a special focus on the EAST principles.

One email content has a deterrent approach, focusing on the legal and economic costs of not registering the AP in SUIT. The second email content appeals to the "herd effect" (comparative message), highlighting the number of public entities that have already registered most of the APs they offer. In addition, both messages inform about the institutional and public benefits of the AP registration, and include a didactive video guide explaining how to register an AP in the SUIT.
Intervention Start Date
2017-12-06
Intervention End Date
2018-09-06
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Administrative procedure (AP) registration rate; number of public entities with total registration; number of public entities that began AP registration; registration progress; length of the registration process
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
AP registration rate represents the percentage of registered APs (by public entitity: number of registered APs/total number of APs); Registration progress represents the advance rate of public entities in each of the different registration stages, there are several stages within the registration process: 1) AP proposition: Department of Public Administration (DPA) proposes to each public entitity a series of APs they could be offering, according to the nature of the public entitity. Those APs will appear in the public entitity's AP inventory inside SUIT. 2) AP acceptance: the public entitity accepts in the SUIT the proposed APs that they actually offer. 3) AP creation: public entitities begin officially with the registration of the APs in SUIT, filling some information fields regarding each individual AP. 4) AP verification: after creating the AP, DPA will evaluate whether each AP was properly created, and will inform the public entitity if there is a mistake in the creation. Afterwards, the public entitity must correct the mistakes if it were the case, and resend the AP to DPA. This process will repeat as many times as needed until every AP is created correctly . 5) AP registration: the APs that are properly created will be registered in SUIT. Their information will be publicly available for anyone who wants to check for it.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
number of SUIT users generated per public entitity; number of interactions between public entities and DPA in the verification stage (see Primary Outcomes Explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experimental design consists of a one level-cluster randomization, taking public entities as the cluster unit. Blocking was done using the public entitity's ex ante registration rate to assure more homogeneity between groups. The generated strata were the following: no advance (registration rate equal to 0%) represented by 856 institutions; ii) small advance (registration rate between 0,1 and 10%) conformed by 333 institutions; iii) medium advance (registration rate between 10,1 and 50%) including 559 institutions; iv) large advance (registration rate between 50,1 and 99,9%) listing 611 institutions.

The experiment will have two treatment arms, since there are two types of email contents. Therefore, one group will receive emails with the deterrent content and the other group will receive emails with the comparative content. Finally, a third group of public entities will not receive any email (control group).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Public entity as the cluster unit of randomization
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2359 public entities
Sample size: planned number of observations
113872 administrative procedures
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
787 public entities receiving deterrent email message, 786 public entities receiving comparative email message, and 786 public entities control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
11,61 standard deviations
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers