Speech of Commissioner Mariya Gabriel at ISA² Mid-Term Conference

29 November 2018

- check against delivery -

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear participants,

Welcome to the ISA² Mid-Term Conference! I am glad to see that so many of you are here today in this beautiful Art Deco building to learn and exchange about linking public administrations, businesses and citizens.

I would also like to thank my colleagues at the European Commission’s ISA² team for organising this event and everybody who contributes to the rich agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two and a half years ago, the ISA² Programme was launched at the From ISA to ISA² conference. The event was a link between the current programme and its predecessor. Today is half-time for ISA² and we are gathered here to take stock of what has been achieved so far, and to discuss what is next, until 2020 and beyond. 

Let me start with a simple but important statement:

The future of Europe and of the world is inevitably digital. Already today, we communicate through smartphones, we shop online and about 90% of jobs require at least basic digital skills. The next decades will make our society and economy even more digital. This is an opportunity that Europe cannot afford to miss. We must take advantage of what new technologies have to offer.

The European Commission is keenly aware of the chances and of the challenges of this digital transformation. Since 2015 we have implemented our Digital Single Market Strategy and put forward more than 60 initiatives to drive the continent into the digital age.

And public administrations are absolutely essential for completing the Digital Single Market.  New rules are first developed there, and once legislation is in place the real work only begins. For citizens and businesses alike, it is only in their direct interaction with public authorities, and in their exercise of rights enforced by these authorities, that the Digital Single Market becomes real. We therefore need public administrations to be fully aware of and embracing the digital opportunities. They should be open and digital by default. They should be role models. This is a challenge. There are real reasons why the public sector often lags behind industry in digitisation: legal, organisational and budgetary barriers hold us back.  But we must keep pushing forward because the benefits are clear: higher efficiency and transparency, lower costs and overall more effective public administration.

Citizen and business-centred digital public services therefore are a must at all levels of government - local, regional, national and European. When we make this a reality, long lines in city halls will finally become a thing of the past. Instead, Europeans will be able to communicate with their administration through the simple click of a mouse or the swipe of their fingertips. 

Now here is the main challenge – how do we make this work across borders and sectors?

In the European Union, we have the possibility to study abroad, buy property in another EU country or even run a business there. This requires the exchange of information between various actors through very diverse IT systems, all while respecting privacy and security rules. 

Our mission is to enable this exchange and make it as smooth as possible. We want to make it simple to link every single person, business and public administration across the EU. 

The key to solving this complex issue is interoperability. By removing barriers to digital integration and enabling the seamless flow of data across EU countries, interoperability will help us bring together all the pieces of our digital puzzle.

It is not an easy task and the European Commission is here to support EU Member States. 

Our European Interoperability Framework, or EIF, offers a holistic approach to achieving interoperability. As a roadmap for the digitisation of public administrations, it gives 12 principles and 47 concrete recommendations on how to set up digital public services in an interoperable way. 

It is very encouraging that European ministers have already recognised the EIF’s importance. Last year in Tallinn they committed to implementing the framework and making digital public services interoperable by default. 

So where are we with the framework implementation today? The average alignment of EU countries to the European Interoperability Framework is at 75%. So while we are on a good way already, a lot more is needed. 

The ISA² Programme provides excellent tools that can increase interoperability. We call them “ISA² solutions”. You could hear much more about some of them during the previous session of this conference and at the exhibition stands.

The European Interoperability Reference Architecture or simply EIRA is very important when creating digital public services. When you are building a house, you need a good architectonic plan. It is the same for public services. EIRA can save public administrations costs and make sure their building blocks are organised in an interoperable way. It has been successfully used in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.

Maybe you work for an administration and wonder how interoperable your public services actually are? IMAPS is a self-assessment tool that measures how well a public service can interact with other organisations and share data. The tool also provides tailored recommendations on how to improve. This way, we have already assessed over 150 digital public services in Europe and offered recommendations on how to improve them.

Another ISA² solution mentioned today is CPSV-AP. It is a data model for harmonising the way public services are described on eGovernment portals. Thanks to this model, public administrations can create user-centric catalogues of public services, making it easier for people to find information they need. It is already used in national pilots in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, and one cross-border pilot shared by Estonia and Finland which was just presented.

These are just a few examples. At the moment, the programme offers around 30 interoperability solutions and their use can bring us closer to our goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Commission knows that the digitisation of public administrations requires investment. Our proposal for the next multi-annual budget of the EU includes strong support for digital. For the first time, the European Union should have a dedicated funding programme for digital, the Digital Europe Programme, with a budget of €9.2 billion.

A significant part of this budget, €1.3 billion, will fund the deployment and use of digital capacities and interoperability. The other priorities of the Digital Europe Programme are cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing and advanced digital skills – and all of them are directly relevant for the digital public administration as well. Without cybersecurity we cannot deliver digital public services. And artificial intelligence allows us to become more responsive and effective. Just one example: the Commission received over 4 million responses to a recent public consultation on the future of summer time. Without smart algorithms, we could not have hoped to understand and sift through all this wealth of information.

This is a chance for Europe to become a digital leader.

Today’s event gives us the opportunity to move forward in our effort. Let’s discover best practices and discuss how to overcome major obstacles. Our task is crucial for the achievement of a borderless Digital Single Market; it is crucial for a united Europe.

Before we all go to enjoy our lunch, it is my pleasure to make an announcement. It is at this event that ISA² is launching the second edition of the Sharing & Reuse Awards Contest. The aim is to reward the most innovative and impactful shared IT solutions. You can learn more at the Sharing & Reuse stand that is part of the exhibition here in Flagey.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here with you today. I wish you a successful day full of inspirational presentations and insightful discussions.

Thank you very much!

Back to the conference page