European e-government plan ‘key to savings’

A five-year e-government action plan being drawn up by the European Union is key to creating cash and societal value, according to European Commission vice-President Andrus Ansip, the man in charge of the Digital Single Market.

A consultation on the plan was launched at the end of October, aimed at speeding up digital transformation in public bodies.

Speaking this week at an eGovernment conference, Ansip said that the public sector can no longer bury its head in the sand when it comes to the digital revolution.

He said: “If public administrations are to remain relevant, responsive and accountable to their citizens in the 21st century, they need to change – to transform – by making more and better use of ICT.

“Digital has to become the ‘new normal’ for government.”

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He said that his vision has three strands for public sector digital services – digital by default, open by default and cross-border by default.

But he admitted that many public bodies were shying away from spending money on digital transformation.

“Online services can save a great deal of time and money,” he said. They offer more accountability and reliability. They offer greater flexibility for many transactions.

“The problem is that administrations are afraid of investment risk.”

Explaining the e-government action plan, Ansip said that ideas include:

  • piloting the ‘once only’ principle for businesses across the EU;
  • accelerating EU countries’ transition to full e-procurement and interoperable e-signatures;
  • reforming the EU institutions’ own digital set-up and procedures;
  • supporting interoperability for public administrations;
  • making interconnections between business registers a reality by 2017 and helping access to digital services in Member States;
  • looking at specific areas, such as transport, health and the judiciary.

Ansip urged those working in public services across Europe to contribute ideas and case studies to the consultation.

Colin Marrs

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