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EU VP says ‘digital by default’ could save €10 billion a year



Andrus Ansip highlights potential taxpayer savings in Digital Single Market strategy; but difficulties are already visible

Public services promise to account for a significant element of the EU's Digital Single Market strategy, according to the official in charge of the initiative.

Andrus Ansip, the Estonian vice president of the European Commission, said in a speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels that public services can become more efficient and save large sums of money by following the strategy.

He said this could amount to €10 billion a year across the EU public sector if digital by default was applied across the EU. A 'once only' approach, in which the public would have to supply their information just once for all public administrations, would save €5 billion a year by 2017, and e-invoicing in public procurement could save up to €2.3 billion.

Ansip expressed some concern however, saying that while the EU is in theory moving towards full e-procurement by October 2018, progress has been slow in some member states.

The Digital Single Market strategy, which is due for publication later this year, will be directed primarily at producing a framework for the free flow of digital trade within the EU; but it will also cover related areas such as public services, skills development and cyber security.

Need for boost

The European Commission may be hoping that the strategy will provide a boost for online government services in the EU. Its report on e-government published in May of last year said there had been a mild decline in the US of such services, with just 41% of the population using them in 2013 compared with 44% the previous year.

It said that, while users have generally been satisfied with the services, the main reason for non-use has been a lack of trust: 30% of users preferred paper submissions and 19% had concerns about personal data. This suggests that the features connected with trust services in the Digital Single Market strategy will be important in promoting the use of online government services.

Ansip highlighted the importance of data protection in his speech.

"Firstly, we need to make sure data is properly protected," he said. "Only then can people fully trust online services and have the confidence to use them, especially across borders."

Data protection

A big element of this is a new EU Data Protection Regulation. A draft was approved by the European Parliament in March of last year, but it has still to be approved by the Council of Minister and there have been criticisms that some aspects of it are unworkable.

Another significant feature is the Regulation on Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions (eIDAS), most of which is due to come into effect in July 2016 and is aimed at ensuring that e-identification for online services in one member state will be applicable in any of the others. This has also attracted criticism from some observers on the grounds that some member states do not carry out identity checks to a sufficiently high standard.

Pictured: Andrus Ansip, from European Commission

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