The "I Lost My Wallet" Service – Doing Government Service Delivery Right

A couple of years ago I was in Portugal to give a talk on Gov 2.0 at a conference the government was organizing. After the talk I went for dinner with the country’s CIO and remember hearing about a fantastic program they were running that – for me – epitomized the notion of a citizen centric approach. It was a help desk called: I Lost My Wallet.


Essentially, it was a place you went when… you lost your wallet. What the government had done was bring together all the agencies that controlled a document or card that was likely to have been in your wallet. As a result, rather than running around from agency to agency filling out your name and address over and over again on dozens of different forms, you went to a single desk, filled out one set of forms to get new copies of say, your social insurance card, your drivers license, healthcare card and library card.

But get this. From the briefing I had, my understanding was that this service was not limited to government cards, they’d also partnered with several private entities. For example, I notice that the service also works for replacing Portugal’s Automotive Club Card. In addition – if I remember correctly – I was told the government was negotiating with the banks so that you could also cancel and replace your ATM/bank card and visa cards at this counter as well.

Now this is citizen centric service. Here the government is literally molded itself – pulling together dozens of agencies and private sector actors around a single service – so that a citizens can simply and quickly deal with a high stress moment. Yes, I’d love to live in a world where all these cards disappeared altogether and were simply managed by a single card of your choosing (like say your Oyster card in the UK – so that your subway fare card was also your healthcare card, government ID, and credit card). But we are a few years away from that still and so this is a nice interim service.

But more importantly it shows a real ability to shed silos and build a service around a citizen/customer need. I believe they had a similar service for “I bought a house” since this is a moment when a number of different government services become relevant simultaneously. I of course, can imagine several others – most notably a “my partner just died” service could be invaluable at helping people manage a truly terrible moment when dealing with government bureaucracy is the last thing they want to be doing.

You can find the website for I lost my Wallet here (it is, naturally, in Portuguese). You can also read more about it, as documented by the European Union here. Lots of food for thought here for those of you designing programs to serve citizens, be it in the public or private sector.

4 thoughts on “The "I Lost My Wallet" Service – Doing Government Service Delivery Right

  1. David Tallan

    In Ontario, we’ve been bundling services around life events for over ten years now: getting married, having a baby, looking for a job, when somebody dies and, yes, losing a wallet among others. On one page there are links to all of the relevant information, services and forms – from multiple levels of government and, in some cases, the private sector (e.g. the lost wallet bundle includes the major credit card companies). I remember well working with the team on these bundles in 2000/2001.

    Admittedly, it wasn’t always a “one form shoots the information off to everyone” level of integration (although we did have an integrated address change) but it was “one place brings together everything you need from the government, and sometimes beyond, to get you though this life event”.

    It’s a great idea. Just not an entirely new one. 

  2. Pingback: Blogpost on the The “I Lost My Wallet” Service | Service Delivery in Government

  3. Stv.

    Not terribly insightful, but since I read this post I have this: stuck in my head.

  4. Ndrwclrk

    Just had the equivalent experience in Canada, except it was “my mom just died”.  You can call Service Canada, and they will conduct an interview with you over the phone where they gather a bunch of data, and the output of that interview is that they give you a list of the agencies that you have to contact to do what is necessary.  One of the agencies that they gave me to contact was a ridiculously long URL that the person on the phone very patiently dictated to me.    I mean your idea is the best case, but there are so many little tiny incremental improvements (like using a URL shortening service) that could be made here. 


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