Pan-European Egovernment

November 23, 2011

Yet again the cry goes up from the EC (in the form of the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes)  that virtual barriers are creating problems where physical barriers have already been taken away. In a press release of her speech to the eGovernment 6th Ministerial eGovernment Conference, 17 November 2011, attended by our own Francis Maude MP, she states that “National eGovernment systems have developed in isolation, creating new digital borders where physical ones have long since disappeared. Fragmenting the EU rather than unifying it.To give an example, students have the legal right to enrol at any university across the EU. But often they cannot do so online, because national electronic ID systems are not recognised abroad. Even though paper ID would be. Isn’t that crazy?”

According to Potsdam Egovernment Competence Centre, reporting on the speech, the UK is involved in two of the projects. “The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is involved in the Spocs project, which intends to make cross-border business administration easier. The project aims to overcome difficulties associated with licence and permit applications from one European country to another, by providing an online ‘single-point-of-contact’ for administrative functions.” Also “The UK Department of Health (DoH) is involved in the epSOS project, a European electronic healthcare record interoperability project. The DoH has attracted criticism from a number of government bodies over its handling of UK electronic patient record contracts.” The reporter also stated that “the UK government is involved in creating a single government website for citizen interactions. The Cabinet Office stopped monitoring feedback on the pilot project in August, with an admission that it had no clear picture of who might use a single government website.”

If the Spocs project is the same one as that relating to the EU Services Directive it was a nightmare for English local government which had spent ten years implementing its own forms and payments solutions to find they had to either replace them or pay to interface to a poorly implemented central government solution.  My main concern is how many other EU countries have actually put in such an application, other than the UK.

In my experience the speech is a dozen or more years too late…Perhaps this had been better stated at the Ministerial eGovernment Conference in Lisbon in 1998 rather than them kicking off all the competition regarding setting national targets as they did?



December 21, 2010

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.