We-government

It’s all happening in Belgium! I blogged on 17 October about the conference that has been taking place there on 14/16 December 2010 that would be attended by a range of e-government celebrities. To coincide with the event a whole range of documents and speeches would appear to have been published.

One of these, a speech by Geert Bourgeois, Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister for Administrative Affairs, Local and Provincial Government, announced the launch of the Citadel Statement, to assist local government  to deliver on the vision on the Malmo Ministerial Declaration, which occurred in Ghent. Another, apparently related event in Brussels, was the launch of the European Commission Action Plan 2011-2015 by Neelie Kroes, the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda at the “Lift-Off towards Open Government” conference on the 15 December 2010.

The EC plan says that the EC will:

  • “use eProcurement
  • rationalise our web presence and ICT back office
  • adopt an open data strategy, and look at setting up a portal for EU open data
  • to encourage others to match and beat us in the effort to open up data; and
  • take steps towards going paperless

Significantly, we will promote and help Member States develop a comprehensive policy on electronic identity management.”

(That final one may concern a number of anti-ID card campaigners in the UK – I was always concerned about the pressures to conform to the EC model.

Somewhat in contrast, the main concerns of the Citadel Statement are:

  • Common architecture, shared services and standards
  • Develop clear guidelines and data models for the use of personal details about citizens
  • Provide guidelines, training and methodologies on involving citizens in decision-making and service design
  • Promote the concept of Broadband as a public utility that should be available to all communities no matter how small or geographically dispersed

Demonstrating that local government has a somewhat different focus to the national ones! In fact Andrea di Maio has dedicated posts both to the “Lift Off” Conference and to the Action Plan, missing out on the Citadel Statement altogether, whilst describing the EC one as a missed opportunity, although providing the commission with the opportunity to spend lots of money.

The contrasting approach between the national and local is likely to replicate the historical role of e-government, where the citizen comes out worse! Let us in the UK hope that the eagerly awaited central government IT Strategy is taking account of the local delivery of services by councils.

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2 Responses to We-government

  1. […] A comment to my post highlighted that in looking at what happened in Brussels on 14 to 16 December, I had missed entirely the issuance of a Pan-European Statement on Local eGovernment, also called Citadel Statement. […]

  2. We missed the comment of Andrea when it was published,and now we can’t post a comment there. But for what it’s worth : our defense of the statement :

    Comments on “Toothless Statement on Local e-government”

    We were pleased with the interest you showed for the Citadel Statement, and appreciate your insightful and trenchant feedback which will certainly help us to continue to keep the pressure on EU and national decision makers to support local eGovernment. The Statement is very much intended to be an iterative, bottom up call to action. If its first iteration generates such extensive criticism from an expert such as yourself then it is clear it is beginning to have its intended impact. Still, from your comments, it is also clear that moving forward we will need to be more clear , less toothless and bite harder .
    Of course the Citadel is hardly a “perfect” document. It was written voluntarily and in a very short period. Nevertheless, we are pleased that it did exactly what it intended to do : start a process in which the high ambitions of the Malmö Declaration are translated in concrete projects. 124 people from 18 different Member States participated in drafting the text, and the result was sponsored by a large number of organizations and enterprises, including the international organizations of local communities themselves, like LOLA, GCD , EPMA and Smart Cities.
    So be assured that we do indeed recognize the “key role that government employees should play for real and sustainable engagement to succeed”. This text has been written by government employees, based on their input and stated priorities.
    And soon after the conference in Ghent where the Citadel Statement was launched we got very positive comments from top level people in the European commission calling it “an excellent piece of work” and asking to “work with those supporting the Citadel Statement in order to re-use the knowledge and experience available via the various organizations of local and regional administrations”. So there will be an afterlife for the statement.
    The first topic in the Statement comes from the idea that egovernment requires to much effort from smaller communities and therefore it’s best that we all work on common infrastructure and shared services. Services set up by Europe, National Governments or a group of villages, there’s no need for a general rule. The idea behind the Citadel statement was indeed that EU and Member States should talk less about the importance of egovernment in the local communities and do more to support it. Hence, the first recommendation that EU and national decision makers better support smaller communities by encouraging a common infrastructure and shared services. .
    Malmö pays a great deal of attention to Open Data, but in reality we hear nothing from the top but “good reasons” not to open data. Privacy, security, confidentiality, etc. Hence the recommendation to overcome this ‘do nothing’ approach by challenging leaders to identify a concrete shortlist of data to be opened all over Europe. A small step – yes. But one that is intentionally designed to generate meaningful movement, particularly at the local level where so many eGovernment advances (such as the Open Data movement) get completely over-looked.
    While the topic of Citizen Participation was identified as a priority by many in the local communities, like Open Data, it is an area where we see that little really moves. Genuinely involving citizens in service design and deliver does need political courage because government is still firmly rooted in an entrenched tradition wherein elected politicians and their administrations assume they know what’s best for citizens.
    Finally the topic of privacy came from the fact that while the EU is currently establishing important data exchange systems on enterprises via the Services Directive little is actually being done for citizens themselves. Privacy is a difficult topic – both politically and legally. However it is one that must be addressed at a European level if European citizens are ever going to be able to enjoy genuinely free movement across Europe.
    Since the conference in Ghent there are closer links between the organizations involved in egovernment for local communities. And we’re sure that’s a force that does need intensive care, but that goes for every egovernment project we’ve ever dealt with.

    Geert Mareels
    Julia Glidden

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