April 21, 2015
Guest blogpost by François du Mortier, e-Government Manager, CIRB and Francesco Grillo, Director, Vision
A Comparative Analysis of e-Government Practices
The Jean-Claude Juncker Commission has set the creation of a digital single market as a first priority. The Digital Agenda appears to be ‘a key ingredient’ to reinvigorate the European economy and to help growth and job creation. Only a few days ago, the Commission said it would focus on three areas to achieve a Digital Single Market: ‘Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services, shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish; and creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential.
Nevertheless, a workshop organised by Vision think tank, on e-Government Best Practices at le Centre d’Informatique pour la Région Bruxelloise (CIRB) on April 1st, underlined that the EU Member States’ actual performance in the digital area is more than disappointing as only 41% of the EU population uses e-Government, and only nine EU countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Lithuania, Austria, Slovenia and Belgium) have reached the European Commission’s 2015 target of 50% e-Government users.
At the same time, public mistrust towards the institutions have been recently increasing as 38% of the EU citizens don’t believe that their governments are capable of efficient and transparent delivery of public services.
In Belgium, citizens enjoy electronic ID cards since 2002 and an open data portal allows them to fill their tax returns via Internet for more than 11 years. The Brussels region is extremely active in the digital sphere and aims at outpacing Paris as a Smart City by 2019. The smart.brussels Programme of le CIRB has an objective to render the region more connected, more sustainable, more open and more secure. The strategy favours, inter alia, an administration without paper, open data and mobile initiatives.
A speaker from ANCI (Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani) highlighted that only 21% of the Italian population used e-Government in 2013, which is almost one half of the EU average. To tackle this, Linea Amica was created in Italy, having an objective to increase contact points between the citizens and the public administration. A new legislation on e-Government and a new national portal called Login were also discussed by the participants.
Another case study focused on the UK, where the percentage of e-Government use is at square with the EU average (41 %). The report flagged the UK’s gateway, which enables citizens to sign up for public services via Internet. While stressing the need to develop these ‘traditional means’ of public service delivery, the workshop shed light to other flagship initiatives in the European neighbourhood.
One such example was flagged as being the one-stop-shop ASAN (Azerbaijani State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations) for it simplifies, streamlines, speeds up and opens up public services ranging from passport renewals to tax inquires and company set-ups. 9 ASAN Centres, operating in the Baku region and its surroundings and serving more than 4 million citizens, were cited as an example of unifying some 240 different types of public services provided by various Ministries in one place.
Moreover, ASAN’s Mobile Service was commended for decreasing the digital divide by sending ASAN buses equipped with computers, ATM machines, and other modern ICTs to the regions, reaching out to some 135.000 less advantaged and less connected citizens. In addition, the participants told that similar initiatives could be created in the entire European neighbourhood as a means to combat corruption and to increase transparency.
A lively debate during the workshop focused on ASAN as an inspirational model for the EU Member States, which have fallen behind in catching up with new technologies and introducing them in public services. Many noted that individuals still have a slight preference for personal contact in service delivery notwithstanding the lost time, excessive bureaucracy and foregone efficiency.
The CIRB workshop concluded that decentralisation, multiplicity of Ministries and language barriers pose certain limits for e-Government projects in Belgium. Similar difficulties are encountered in Italy, where the current fragmentation due to the existence of some 4000 municipalities with a high level of autonomy and strong resistance to delegate power to any other instance could jeopardise e-Government initiatives.
The workshop further underlined the slow take-up of e-Government use throughout the EU while stressing that its economic and practical benefits are underexploited.
To cope with the underdevelopment of e-Government services, and to boost the EU economy, the Digital Agenda shall be taken more seriously in all EU Member States in order to achieve the 50% target of e-Government use and the 25% target of filling out forms electronically by 2015.
As a Belgian speaker put it “The lessons from all this is that we all need to cooperate as actively as possible in developing successful e-Government programmes and exchanging best practices ”adding that the examples discussed in the workshop constitute ‘an opportunity not to be missed.’Blogactiv Team