The exponential growth in digitisation, increased information and knowledge exchange, enhanced connectivity, openness and transparency are leading to a radical change in citizen expectations. Citizens are changing their approach to interacting with, and relating to governmental organisations and services. The availability of digital technologies and data on the other hand provide new opportunities for public administrations to become more efficient and effective, provide user-friendly services, while reducing costs and administrative burden.

The data-driven, open, modular, digital government approach can facilitate this transformation.

Starting by sharing data and services between administrations can already trigger significant savings and efficiencies. For example, X-Road interconnects more than 170 government databases in Estonia and operates them in an efficient and synchronised way. Over 2000 services in X-Roads are used by more than 900 organisations. Another example is the MAGDA platform in Belgium that allows public administrations to exchange data from authentic sources and therefore support the once-only principle by minimising the contact points of citizens.

It is however, expected that if governments make their data and services open, modular and reusable, this can facilitate collaboration for the design, production and delivery of public service and can allow civil society or businesses create new, value added, personal services. For example, the Dutch TopoGPS, a GPS application, is based on data from the base registry and the economic effect of this product development is estimated at €9 million, while the Danish National Land Registry allowed third parties to re-use some of the public service building blocks, saving Danish courts €10 million per year, and end-users €20 million.

Digital technologies and data indeed allow public services to go beyond the standard administrative or human services we typically experience today. In future, such services may be more location-based, personalised, and contextual, due to better use of data and better understanding of citizens' needs. The services are also likely to be more coordinated and integrated, so that complete life events can be addressed digitally through simple interfaces, whereby joined up government agencies sort out the various tasks among them.

In addition, open data and open processes, activities and decisions enhance transparency, accountability and trust in government. ICT facilitates bottom-up, participative and collaborative initiatives that tackle specific societal problems. For example, Iceland used social networking sites to crowd-source provisions to their new constitution.

The open government approach is expected to result in user-friendly, ubiquitous, personalised services; as they are designed, created and delivered in collaboration with others, combining information, data and services both from the public as well as the private sector. This approach shall also improve the quality of decision-making and promote greater trust in public institutions.

In order to test this approach and highlight good practices, the Commission has been funding ICT-enabled public sector innovation under H2020.


The Commission has been promoting the modernisation of public administrations through the open government concept for several years. The eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 highlighted user empowerment - engaging with users both in policy-making and in service creation and delivery - and put forward the notion of innovative eGovernment which built on open, flexible and collaborative eGovernment services. The 'Vision for public services' - non-paper further explains this approach.

15 October 2014
Last update: 
20 February 2018
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