The eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 was published a year ago, on 19/04/2016, as part of a package of initiatives related to the realisation of the Digital Single Market (DSM). While the Commission is reviewing the progress made towards completing the Digital Single Market and will publish the DSM Midterm Review in May, we are now taking stock of the efforts made in accelerating the digital transformation of government. What have we achieved together in eGovernment, since the Action Plan was published?
The eGOV4EU platform, to facilitate the emergence of new ideas for action was launched at the beginning of June 2016. During its first cycle, more than 30 ideas were expressed and four themes were picked up for further developments. As the Action Plan provides for a dynamic and flexible approach, your ideas are still welcome; so please let us know public administrations can do better.
The Action Plan set out an ambitious vision for public administrations and introduced a number of key principles, such as 'digital-by-default', 'once-only' and 'cross-border by default', in order to reduce administrative burden for citizens and businesses and to facilitate mobility in the EU.
While the annual eGovernment Benchmark exercise continues to measure progress in relation to the main policy priorities, the most recent 2016 Benchmark Report also analyses the state-of-play as regards the principles. The new Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) shows an increase in the number of public services available online and the recently published eGovernment factsheets indicate progress towards the directions set out in the eGovernment Action Plan. The DESI however, also highlights that facilitating the delivery of online services by reusing user data already known to the public administration (moving towards the once-only principle) remained stable. For Digital Public Services Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands had the highest scores in 2016, while Romania, Hungary and Croatia are lagging behind; thus not fully benefitting from modern public services offered online that are an efficient vehicle to reduce public spending and administrative burden on enterprises, citizens and the public administration.
There is progress in making the 'digital-by-default' principle a reality. For example, Germany adopted the decision to launch a virtual platform for all eGovernment services, with the plan to provide as many administrative services as possible online in the coming years. In December 2016, both Chambers of the Dutch Parliament passed the eIDAS act, while in Sweden, the Parliament voted on the supplementary law in May 2016, which will support the implementation of the eIDAS regulation. The Irish government launched in September 2016 MyGovID, a single secure online identity allowing access to a wide range of eGovernment services. As regards different delivery channels, Malta has recently launched its Government mServices Strategy for providing public services over mobile devices, Austria sees a continuous increase in the use of mobile eID solution and mobile phone signatures, while Portugal introduced the Digital Mobile Key for electronic authentication, which allows citizens to access services offered by portals and public authorities’ sites, through mobile devices.
Several Member States are actively pursuing the implementation of the 'once-only principle'. For example Luxembourg has introduced new services using authentic sources, allowing users to consult registers/databases as well as to reuse and amend the data held by the government. Another example is the zero bureaucracy initiative in Estonia, with the objective to eliminate unnecessary requirements and reduce the administrative burden on businesses and within the public sector.
As regards unlocking the potential of the Digital Single Market, the 2016 eGovernment Benchmark Report reveals that Luxembourg, Cyprus, Sweden and Denmark are mostly practicing the ‘cross-border by default’ principle. In Estonia, a new NGO was created with the purpose of promoting interoperability solutions in the Nordic countries and the Finnish and Estonian governments signed a joint declaration, ensuring cross-border services across the Gulf of Finland. The new European Interoperability Framework (EIF) gives specific guidance on how to set up interoperable digital public services.
Beyond the principles and ambitious policy priorities, the Action Plan also identified 20 concrete actions, some with target dates in 2016 and 2017. All actions are on track and their progress can be followed here.
We said we would make the Action Plan a catalyst, 'to coordinate public sector modernisation efforts and resources in the field of eGovernment'. We are doing this by stepping up our efforts in reaching out to local and regional administrations (LRAs), who are at the forefront of delivering many of the services in order to increase the impact of the Action Plan on people's lives. We are engaged in (i) informing them about the opportunities the eGovernment Action Plan offers; (ii) helping administrations in the implementation of eGovernment through guidance documents and good practice cases and (iii) providing guidance for funding instruments that could support them in pursuing their ambitions of becoming smart municipalities or regions and help better align policy with funding. Work on the 'Toolbox for Quality of Public Administration', cooperation with cross-border and macro-regions, collaboration with the Digital Transition Partnership under the EU's Urban Agenda as well as focused events like the Session on 'Accelerating the digital transformation of government' at the European Week of Regions and Cities (12/10/2016) and the Workshop on 'Supporting the implementation of eGovernment at regional and local level' (15/11/2016) are important steps in this direction.
So what's next? We will continue pursuing our objectives in making the Action Plan a catalyst and looking forward to another fruitful year of progress in accelerating the digital transformation of government in the EU, for the benefit of citizens, businesses and public administrations.