For the Tijdelijk Noodfonds Energie (literally translated as Temporary Energy Emergency Fund), Fyndoo developed the verification model that determines whether a household is entitled to an energy allowance. If the answer is yes, the calculation engine quickly and easily determines the amount to be paid out.
The emergency fund is an initiative of a number of energy companies, civil society parties and the central government. Low-income households can appeal to the fund if they are (or risk being) financially strapped.
Fyndoo, a product of ICT company Topicus, was involved as a technical party in the development of the so-called Emergency Fund check. With this calculation tool, consumers can assess whether it makes sense for them to apply for a payment from the fund and do so immediately. For now, energy suppliers pumped €24.5 million into the money depot; the state doubled the deposit, with a maximum of €50 million.
Not very far from home
With the development of the app, Fyndoo was not very far from home, says Maarten Kok, who, as a project manager at Topicus, contributed to the calculation model. The Fyndoo platform helps parties such as banks and accountants, among others, to quickly assess and process financing applications. This includes credit ratings and loan pricing calculations. The steps in the processes are largely automated and an outcome therefore rolls out quickly. This saves time and is customer-friendly. Fyndoo's calculation engine has been deployed for the purpose of the emergency fund.
Business experts and econometricians with specific knowledge of certain markets can configure this kind of computational model themselves in the computational engine. The advantage over 'programming out' in code is that this does not take up scarce developer time. This method is similar to using Excel, says Martijn Verbraak, who is involved as a product owner. "But spreadsheets have the disadvantage that formulas can be 'broken' unintentionally. That is not easy to integrate into an IT landscape," he explains.
We are literally going to help prevent people sitting out the cold! We really did that shoulder to shoulder, without pointing at each other when something unforeseen occurred.
Shoulder to shoulder
Kok and Verbraak, as they talk about the emergency fund, have barely returned from The Hague, where the app and website were launched and minor wrinkles were ironed out. There, the team members met fund board chairman Lodewijk Asscher. The latter was very enthusiastic about the result achieved within a short time by the cooperating parties in the IT chain.
The two also met representatives of other involved parties for the first time, with whom they had previously only had digital contact. Kok is delighted with the cooperation, he says: "In a contract with a customer, it is sometimes a tug-of-war over responsibilities and participants try to cover themselves. Here, everyone said: this is SO important for society. "
Time as a key factor
As far as Fyndoo's share was concerned, the project was completed within a few months. If anything mattered, it was the time factor. Partly in view of payment problems that many households are already experiencing, the app had to be ready quickly. The duration of the emergency fund is also relatively short; the support measure goes back to October 2022 and runs until March 2023. The app allows households to apply for support for the entire period, including retrospectively. An estimated 600,000 households suffer from what is now called 'energy poverty', or 7 per cent (source: TNO).
So there was a lot of pressure on the development. Verbraak explained: "The first version had to be finished in December, so we had two and a half months. During that period, penetration and integration tests also had to be carried out, to discover vulnerabilities and see if everything worked together."
Maybe still tweaking
The launch went relatively smoothly. "We only encountered a few bugs, but they were fixed the same day," Kok says. Since then, we haven't seen any. I am super proud of what the teams achieved and also of the cooperation with the other parties involved." He thinks the team may still need to tweak here and there. But that's not the work. "Our tool is an assessment model. People drop out, or they are granted an allowance. If too many people drop out, we don't necessarily have to adjust the model, it's a matter of changing some parameters and moving sliders."
Server with the least load
Verbraak explains how two more releases were made while the Emergency Fund check was already live. "The users didn't notice any of that. So we could just make improvements on the fly." This was possible thanks to the state-of-the-art techniques used to set up the system.
Every time a user calls the calculator, that request goes to the server with the least load at that time. "If one goes down, users don't notice anything," according to Verbraak. "Not even if the load is very high. Then they automatically switch on. That's very cool. And also that you can release an upgrade without downtime.
What happens next? "We deliver our files to the foundation that manages the emergency fund," says Kok. "Which in turn arranges communication with the participating energy companies."
Pensions and allowances
As far as is known now, the Emergency Fund check should do its job for a few months. But as far as Fyndoo is concerned, more and similar applications are conceivable. "In the government domain, we could make a similar calculation model for determining the amount and entitlement to allowances," is Verbraak's suggestion. In the financial domain, premium calculations for insurance and pensions are a possible application, or sustainability scores and company valuations. "I could imagine us helping parties do that," he says.