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?