A five-year eGovernment Action Plan has just been presented by the European Commission to deliver innovative online public services to citizens and businesses and increase the take-up of these services across Europe (see IP/10/1718 and MEMO/10/680). It sets out concrete actions and priorities to make access to public services more efficient and cost effective. The new Action Plan builds on experience gained with the 2006 European eGovernment Action Plan (see IP/06/523). The availability of online delivery of basic services like company registration and tax filing has so far been a success, going up from 21% in 2000 to 71% in 2009 in EU27. But take-up does not match this trend, with only 42% of the EU population using online public services in the past year. The Commission is committed to supporting Member States in developing eGovernment services based on users' needs. Here are some practical examples of exactly how the measures outlined in the Action Plan stand to benefit citizens and businesses.
Only 42% of the EU population used online public services in the past year. The services themselves are rarely, or not easily, available across borders. The eGovernment Action Plan therefore aims to increase the take-up of online public services to 50% of EU citizens by 2015 and to make available online a number of cross border services.
In a true digital Single Market, people should all be able to apply on-line to study, reside or retire anywhere in the EU. Information and communications technologies (ICT) are meant to make our lives easier, yet in this respect it is still at times easier to go down the paper route than use the internet. The eGovernment Action Plan foresees actions to strengthen personal mobility in the Single Market thanks to digital services.
This Action Plan also aims to make public administrations more transparent for the benefit of the citizen. One objective is to provide citizens with electronic access to their personal data, in strict compliance with data protection requirements, and to enable them to follow on-line each step of the administrative procedure as well as to complete an administrative task online anywhere in the EU.
It will also give citizens a greater say on how on-line public services are designed, produced and delivered. This also means that all kinds of public data such as geographical, meteorological, legal, financial, economic and traffic information should be made available for innovative products such as geo-information systems for cars, on-line weather forecasts, or travel information applications which could, for instance, be downloaded on smart phones or other electronic devices. Actions in this area will include reviews of the Public Sector Information (PSI) rules and of the Commission Decision on the re-use of Commission information (see IP/10/1103), along with closer cooperation between Member States.
The Action Plan calls for innovative services to be accessible not only through the Internet, but also through TV, mobile phones or other electronic devices.
The Commission will work with Member States to develop the electronic means to support citizens initiatives (whereby one million EU citizens can call on the European Commission to bring forward new legislation) as foreseen by Article 11 of the EU Treaty.
By the end of 2011, Member States are due to agree on a number of key cross-border public services to be rolled out between 2012 and 2015 and identify how they could be introduced.
The eGovernment Action Plan is committed to meeting the expectations of 'digital natives', the young people who have been online since they were small children, use the internet more frequently and often have more digital know-how than previous generations.
A key priority for students is to be able to enrol online for any European school or university from any Member State. This will save time and money for both students and public and education services. Already, the STORK (see MEMO/10/680) Large Scale Pilot is applying a solution for student mobility in five countries (Austria, Estonia, Italy, Portugal and Spain) giving foreign students access to online services offered by universities (e.g. online enrolment, access to online courses or tutorials, access to computing infrastructures, etc).
The Action Plan aims to ease and secure the transfer of pension rights across the EU. The objective is that retiring citizens will be able to arrange their pensions online not only in their home country, but also in other countries where they may have worked or reside.
Socially disadvantaged people
The eGovernment Action Plan aims at ensuring, together with Member States, that services are designed around the needs of users and that access to public services is available through various channels. These include the internet, TV, telephone, mobile devices and intermediaries (which can be helpful to those who either do not have an internet connection or do not have the skills to access these services), as well as websites accessible to persons with disabilities.
eGovernment aims to ensure that businesses, and especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) spend less time on administrative procedures and gain new business opportunities. By way of example of the potential advantages for businesses, the time taken to register a new business in Belgium has fallen from 56 days to just 3 days following the introduction of online company registration, according to the Belgian authorities.
Since eGovernment services are of great importance for business, the aim of the Action Plan is that 80% of enterprises will be using online public services by 2015.
Businesses should be able to sell goods and services to public administrations all across the EU, through easy electronic public procurement. By 2015, a number of key cross-border services, such as eTendering, should be available online and enable entrepreneurs to set up and run a business anywhere in Europe more quickly and easily, independent of their original location.
ICTs can help the public sector to develop innovative ways of delivering its services to citizens more effectively and at lower costs.
The Action Plan will encourage the exchange of best practices between Member States. There is a wealth of valuable experience and solutions all over the EU and the Commission will help administrations to learn from each other's successes.
For its part, the Commission will implement an ambitious eCommission Action Plan for 2011-2015, including full electronic procurement, a public sector information strategy and a transparency policy. By end of 2013 the Commission, in close cooperation with Member States, will set up a programme for staff exchanges between administrations in different Member States.
Electronic identification (eID) technologies and authentication services are essential for the security of electronic transactions (in both the public and private sectors). Today the most common way to authenticate such transactions is by means of passwords, but more secure solutions protecting privacy are increasingly needed. Europe needs better administrative cooperation to develop and deploy cross-border public online services, including practical eIdentification and eAuthentication solutions.
The Action Plan will contribute towards the mutual recognition and acceptance of eID, allowing citizens and businesses to identify themselves electronically throughout Europe.
Europe's global leadership to tackle climate change has paved the way forward with an ambitious energy and climate change policy that sets out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020.
eGovernment helps to reduce the carbon footprint of administrations in Member States, for example by implementing electronic archiving or using videoconferences instead of travelling. The Commission, on its side, will conduct a study in 2012 on the potential of eGovernment to further reduce the carbon footprint of governments.
To find out more:
STORK (Secure Identity Across Borders Linked)
PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement Online)
SPOCS (Simple Procedures Online for Cross-border Services)