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eGovernment Benchmark 2016 – A turning point for eGovernment development in Europe?

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Introduction of the study

During the past decade, governments and other public organisations have increasingly started to recognise the importance of eGovernment, which encompasses the complete field of citizens and businesses facing digital activities with public organisations as well as the constant pressure to work more efficient and effective.

eGovernment is more than simply bringing public services online. For citizens and businesses, it not only offers great potential in terms of time and costs saving by using online channels, but new technologies also enable an active collaboration with policy makers and participation in processes that matter to them. It provides transparency and more control over personal data, and opens up public sector data which can be used to create real public value.

This requires a different attitude from public entities and public servants. An open mindset, supporting collaboration and participation. A mindset that should also be open to new ways of working internally: bringing down barriers between government agencies, between tiers and between countries. New operating models are needed to facilitate smart data re-use and further burden reduction. And these new models should also facilitate public servants in their new roles.

The eGovernment Benchmark provides insights into the current state-of-play of European governments. Until now, we have seen a modest uptake of eGovernment services and a steady, incremental progress in the offering of eGovernment services in Europe. Despite progress – mostly made on the supply side of services – some might say that the pace is too slow and technology is not used to its full potential. Likely, the pace is slow because the transformation of public organisations towards ‘digital’ requires more than a new organigram; it demands change of routines. It requires a clear vision of how eGovernment can change public services, but also what and who is required to achieve that. Leadership to realise joined-up approaches. This report comes out at an interesting moment: it concludes the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 and precedes the new eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020. An excellent moment to provide a retrospective on 4 years of eGovernment benchmarking along the lines of the ‘old’ action plan, and at the same time look forward to the significant challenges ahead related to the new Action Plan priorities.

eGovernment_Benchmark_2016With the motto of ‘Harnessing ICT to promote smart, sustainable & innovative Government6’, the old Action Plan aimed to realise the vision proposed in the Declaration made at the 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference (the ‘Malmö Declaration7’).

According to this vision, by 2015 European public administrations should be “recognised for being open, flexible and collaborative in their relations with citizens and businesses. They use eGovernment to increase their efficiency and effectiveness and to constantly improve public services in a way that caters for user’s different needs and maximises public value, thus supporting the transition of Europe to a leading knowledge based economy.” It was this Action Plan that the current eGovernment Benchmark was built for to monitor.

This report will take stock of achievements made so far. The new eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 aims to remove existing digital barriers to the Digital Single Market and to prevent further fragmentation arising in the context of the modernisation of public administrations. It aims to be the instrument to join up efforts. While Member States pursue their own strategies and activities, this Action Plan – based on a shared long-term vision – sets out a number of principles that forthcoming initiatives should observe in order to deliver the significant benefits that eGovernment can bring to businesses, citizens and public administrations themselves. It steadily builds on what was once set out in Malmö providing stable directions towards ‘Digital Public Services fit for the future’ (the motto of this action plan8).

But there is a difference in the development of the new plan, reaching out to and consulting a broad eGovernment community across Europe, and the actions that are the outcomes of this process. Not only will the Action Plan apply a more dynamic and flexible approach which is easier to keep up to date with fast evolving technology developments, it also lists several actions that explicitly list responsible directorates within the Commission (besides CNECT also DG JUST, GROW, TAXUD, MOVE, EMPL, SANTE, ENV, COMM and DIGIT9). The full benefits of eGovernment can only be realised through a collaborative and joined-up approach, and these developments are testimony to that.

The next edition of the eGovernment Benchmark will take these new developments into account10, but already in this report we will share the insights that can be derived at this moment from the current eGovernment Benchmarking data as well as other external sources.

Only the future can show whether we are at a turning point for European eGovernment, but the present is already calling for it.

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