Municipal governments throughout Europe are experimenting with new digital solutions. So where are online portals replacing filing cabinets? Where are citizens enjoying efficient online service instead of having to wait in lines? Progress is being made, and these examples prove it.
Electronic ID? Digital citizenship card? No-fuss founding of a company online? Germany is somewhat behind the European pack when it comes to public sector services. A Ministry of Digitalization is scheduled to begin working as of the upcoming legislative period. Yet acceptance of eGovernment among German citizens is actually dropping right now. A study by the E-Government-Monitor 2015 found that just 39 percent of the population used the government's existing digital services. Here's why: citizens are often unaware that those options even exist. What they want is a single digital account from which they can perform a variety of 'town hall' tasks.
A few EU countries have made that jump already, as these examples show:
Austria: The country continues to make inroads through its official ID card with a cellphone signature. More and more citizens are taking advantage of the reduced fees involved with applying for birth certificates, police record checks and parking permits via the eGovernment portal. A whopping 40 percent discount is offered for handling administrative tasks online. The initial feedback is highly positive. The national government intends to push eGovernment hard and pick up citizen support along the way. Accenture rates Austria as having the best digital government services in the entire EU .
Estonia: The small Baltic nation with its capital in Tallinn is a digital trend setter. Spiegel Online calls it the "Silicon Valley of Europe" . Most common administrative tasks — marriages, divorces and notary appointments aside — can be handled from the convenience of home. Over 600 services are available for private citizens online. Companies have their choice of over 2000. The technical framework is built around X-Road, an infrastructure encompassing databases from the public and private realms to offer access to a growing range of eGovernment services and information. Estonia intends to have all its inhabitants hooked up to fast internet by 2020.
Sweden: eGovernment is a digital trailblazer here: official mailings will only be sent digitally going forward. Paper prescriptions are also history — the patient simply presents their ID at the pharmacy. Wage statements are also issued electronically. Because they offer strong service, the country's tax offices are actually among the country's most popular agencies. As in Estonia, tax returns are filled out in advance and need only be signed. Over 75 percent of all Swedes are already using the country's digital services, finds the E-Government-Monitor 2015 from the German federal government.
Great Britain: The British have taken things even a step further — 'mobile government' is the buzzword. Last year saw major improvements to the Government Digital Service . Civil agencies are controlling the digital transformation centrally. Transparency is a major priority, with a web portal dedicated to showing eGovernment service rankings. The GDS budget was doubled in late 2015 to almost 100 million pounds. This shows the priority being given to the digital transformation in Great Britain's government offices.
France continues to hold a leading global position in eGovernment, a UN ranking from 2014 found . It ranked the country as fourth overall — with particular praise for the high number of government services that can be initiated online. Every citizen is free to create his or her own administrative account and handle a variety of formal tasks under www.mon.service-public.fr . There are over 13 million public WLAN hotspots distributed across the country — more than in the USA. As such, France is the world's WiFi capital .
Switzerland: CeBIT guest country Switzerland approved a new eGovernment strategy in December 2015. It is concentrated on a few strategic projects and services — such as the provision of key modules including the electronic ID (eID) and uniform registration processes. An official website uses a map of the nation to introduce the different eGovernment services from agencies for the various cantons and municipalities, and to provide a forum for officials to discuss their experiences. The country's broadband availability is exemplary: 99 percent of its citizens already have access to fast internet (30Mbit/s) . In rural areas that coverage (90 percent) is over four times the EU average.
Italy has for years now pursued a consistent road map of cutting public administration costs. IT is one key to massive savings. The government's eProcurement portal in particular is seen as one of the best in Europe. Each public agency in Italy can choose suppliers from that virtual market. The entire purchasing process is conducted digitally. Somewhat further south is another top performer in the public digitalization effort: Malta. The small island state has put a major focus on international offerings for its companies and citizens, the EU E-Government-Report 2014 found.
The same report saw Portugal as holding one of the top spots as well. A central eGovernment agency, AMA, organizes all activities there. When it comes to citizen-focused services, the country is far ahead of the pack. Its authentication mechanisms using an electronic ID are considered particularly innovative.
While various nations around Europe are well on their way, there is a profound lack of systematic international discussion of services and resources between the different EU governments, Steria Mummert Consulting has written. Cross-border cooperations, such on rules for archiving of data, have only been undertaken on a case-by-case basis. It seems Digital State-Ups have trouble crossing borders too.
Learn more about eGovernment solutions at the Public Sector Parc in Hall 7 at CeBIT 2016!