Expert opinions, INVESTMENT CLIMATE, TECHNOLOGY

How the state adopts a customer-centric approach inspired by business: A case of St. Petersburg IGSCs

Using a mathematical model to find new locations, evaluating financial viability, engaging partner services, and implementing digital solutions for customer service – Maxim Aleksandrov, director of St. Petersburg integrated government service centers (IGSCs), illustrates how the city applies established business strategies to enhance IGSC development.

Alexey Maishev / RIA Novosti

What should the modern IGSC look like

When establishing integrated government service centers (IGSC), the primary goal was to improve the accessibility of public services across various districts of St. Petersburg. However, the evolution of IGSCs has transformed them into more than mere document processing institutions. Moreover, people use these centers to assess how the authorities and city leadership interact with them. Consequently, the development concept of IGSCs in St. Petersburg receives significant attention.

With a city population exceeding 5 million residents, integrated government service centers process over 11 million requests annually. This number is expected to rise, as the approved concept by the Russian government aims to shift 80% of all in-person requests to IGSCs by 2024, aligning with the transition to providing state and municipal services 24/7 without requiring the personal presence of citizens.

St. Petersburg currently has 63 integrated government service centers, featuring 1,180 one-stop-shop windows. However, anticipating a planned surge in demand by 2027, there is a need for an increase in this number. To effectively develop the IGSC network, aligning with government requirements and meeting public expectations, four primary tasks must be addressed.

Task No.1: Picking the right location

As part of the IGSC network’s new development concept, the primary emphasis is on customer centricity. All centers must be conveniently situated and easily accessible via public transportation. Ensuring access for groups with limited mobility and visitors with children, along with offering supplementary services like photo booths and document printing, is imperative. Consequently, meticulous selection of premises for new IGSCs and the potential relocation of existing centers that do not meet contemporary standards to more suitable locations are crucial.

Achieving an optimal distribution of IGSCs across the city requires considering numerous variables, which makes mathematical modeling an indispensable tool. To that end, we sought assistance from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at St. Petersburg State University. The key technical specification aligns with the nationwide standard outlined in Russian Government Directive No. 1376, stipulating one window per 5,000 residents. Additionally, another criterion was established, ensuring at least one integrated government service center is situated within a 3 km radius of every resident in St. Petersburg.

An IGSC location scheme was required that would offer maximum convenience for the city residents and meet the requirements for each particular center in terms of proximity to areas with a high demand for IGSC services.

Experts divided the city into clusters with regard to the road network, district government institutions and various service centers, as well as social facilities such as outpatient clinics, schools, fitness clubs, cafes, and other activity and leisure facilities. A particular attention was paid to the population density in districts and municipalities, with coordinate information used as initial data.

The modeling parameters included 65,000 real estate objects (both residential and non-residential), some 7,000 transport hubs, and information on legal entities as well as urban development plans on increasing residential housing by about 750 facilities.

As part of the research, four best options were picked for dividing St. Petersburg into optimal high cohesion territorial units, each showing a high value with an adequate number of clusters.

As a result, we obtained a mathematical model for IGSC distribution in St. Petersburg, considering the locations where most community activities are concentrated. In order to find the optimal location for IGSCs, we marked a centroid network on the map, each one being a cluster point equidistant from all connected objects such as transport hubs, housing and social institutions, with the scheme of operating centers superimposed on the map.

We are now working to finalize the project with allowance for natural barriers, such as water and railway obstacles. Yet, we can already see discrepancies between the optimal and the actual location of IGSCs, a task that we need to solve.   

Task No.2: Assessing economic efficiency

The next stage requires evaluating the economic efficiency of launching IGSCs: an optimal size of an IGSC should be determined while assessing all expenses for the facility and utilities maintenance, as well as for employee salaries.

Small IGSCs are the most expensive ones in this regard. However, a center that is too large would also be inefficient as it would require a large staff of underutilized employees. As to effective balancing the costs for setting up, maintaining and providing service window resources and the demand, a medium-sized IGSC that offers between 15 to 25 one-stop-shop windows would be the optimal option for St. Petersburg.

Task No.3: Rethinking business models

Previously, city-owned free premises were used for setting up IGSCs; less often, facilities were purchased from the owner, normally in remote residential areas.

Starting in 2020, major developers and real estate owners began facing difficulties with malls and business center space lease – initially due to the pandemic, and then in 2022 as a follow-up to foreign companies’ withdrawal from Russia. The business community came up with a proposal for public-private partnerships, offering to launch IGSCs on long-term lease terms in existing malls and business centers.

The business model proved to be efficient, with the first such IGSC launched in the Oka shopping mall in St. Petersburg’s Kolpino district in 2021, to be followed by planned opening of other integrated service centers in shopping malls.

Task No.4: Providing convenience and an extended scope of services

IGSCs require parking spaces for visitors with limited mobility, as well as elevators, ramps, and accessible bathrooms. A center’s accessibility passport also includes available tactile tiles, Braille inscriptions, and annunciators that work as navigation tools for people with visual disability. For those with hearing impairment, the centers’ service windows are equipped with special neuron devices to eliminate any background noise or conversations occurring in the queue area. All baby care rooms are equipped with a changing table and a sink.

All IGSCs use queue management systems for visitor convenience. In 2023, we implemented a major project on substituting the system produced by a foreign manufacturer with a domestic technology solution. In December, the work was completed to re-equip all IGSCs in St. Petersburg, including mobile offices.

We are in constant search for helpful and relevant services to be offered at our IGSCs. For instance, we installed photo booths that resolve three tasks at once, allowing a business to earn money and us to receive additional budget funds coming from the booth lease and offer another useful service to our visitors, who need to take a photo and pay a state fee while compiling documents. Another example would be payment terminals installed at service windows, which allow our visitors to pay state fees as well as utility bills.

The same applies to multifunction printers – devices that combine printing, copying and scanning. At an IGSC, you can request a government service, make free document copies, and additionally print or scan documents for personal use.

——————————

The method for planning advancement of regional IGSCs, which we are developing with the support from St. Petersburg State University experts, has received positive feedback from the city government’s scientific council. Upon approval by the city governor and government, this essential legal document will serve as the basis for our strategy, proving to be relevant for other Russian regions as well.

Previous ArticleNext Article