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EU works on new e-government plan



Five-year effort will be geared to making digital transactions for public services the norm throughout Europe

The European Commission has begun to work on a five year e-government action plan for the EU as part of its Digital Single Market strategy.

Andrus Ansip (pictured), EU vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, has outlined a set of principles which reflect several priorities of the UK government’s digital transformation programme - and emphasise the interoperability of member states’ services.

In a speech in Luxembourg yesterday, he said he wanted digital to become the “new normal” for government around Europe.

Ansip said that, while the commission will take in views from around the EU, its ideas that include:

  • Piloting the ‘once only’ principle for businesses across the EU.
  • Accelerating member states’ transition to full e-procurement and interoperable e-signatures.
  • Reforming EU institutions’ digital set-ups and procedures.
  • Supporting interoperability for public administrations.
  • Making interconnections between business registers a reality by 2017 and supporting access to digital services in member states.

In addition, the commission will look at specific areas such as transport, health and the judiciary.

Interoperability's importance

Ansip emphasised the importance of compatibility between national public services, describing the European Interoperability Framework as a key building block, and emphasising the potential of the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA²) programme. ISA² will run for five years beginning in January and provide €131 million to support the development of interoperable digital solutions.

Ansip also outlined three principles to underline the work, while pointing to some of the barriers in the way of adoption.

He said that ‘digital by default’, which has been at the centre of the UK government’s efforts for several years, can provide major savings while providing more accountability and reliability.

But administrations have been afraid of the investment risk as not enough people have used existing digital services. He claimed that 40% of the EU’s regular internet users choose not to access public services digitally because of poor usability and lack of transparency.

These failings have to be corrected, and there is a need to build more public trust in the reliability and security of online services. Ansip said the recently approved Electronic Identification and Trust Services Regulation (eIDAS) would be one of the building blocks in this effort, providing trust in cross-border digital transactions.

Open by default

Secondly, administrations should take up the open data agenda and work more freely with other groups in a move towards ‘open by default’. This would give individuals, businesses and the third sector the potential to provide more services using the data.

“If this is made accessible, made available as open data – free for use and re-use – then the community, individuals as well as companies, can benefit hugely,” Ansip said. “And the public sector benefits in return. The more we share, the more we gain.”

Thirdly, there is a need for more compatibility between national public services, what Ansip described as “cross-border by default” and which will draw heavily on the European Interoperability Framework.

The principles can be seen as more specific than the priorities of the EU’s 2011-15 e-government plan, which focused on empowering citizens and businesse, reinforcing mobility in the single market, enabling efficiency and efficiency and effectiveness, and creating the key enablers and preconditions.

Ansip issued a call for people to take part in the public consultation on the new plan, which will run into 22 January, and concluded: “Digitising government is key to making it open, efficient and accountable at the service of our communities.”

Picture from the European Commission



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