“To date, E-government, which should be part of the solution, has been part of the problem. National E-government systems have been developed in isolation, creating new digital borders where physical ones have long since disappeared, fragmenting the EU rather than unifying it.”
Neelie Kroes, EC Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe
As governments across the world provide more and more support for open data initiatives and web 2.0 channels as a means for engaging citizens, researchers are turning their attention towards future internet, wisdom of crowds and virtual-world experiments. In contrast to the past focus of ‘making services available online’, the current strategic direction in E-government services is one of transparency and ‘making public data available for reuse’. After an early stage focusing on placing government information online, followed by providing services for citizens (‘government-centric’ and ‘citizen-centric’ paradigms), we are currently moving towards a ‘society-centric’ paradigm where open data and citizen-to-citizen relationships play a major role in adding value to E-government services.
How are European authorities – at local, national, and European level – dealing with the challenges created by this paradigm shift? What practices and policies have been tried by different regions in Europe to address these challenges, and how can all regions in Europe benefit from these experiences and knowledge?
These and other questions will be addressed and discussed throughout this report, which proceeds as follows: this chapter presents the motivation and methodology used in the Capitalisation study; chapter 2 presents the European policy context, including the main challenges, barriers and drivers for development; the third chapter constitutes the main body of this report, presenting an in-depth analysis of the thematic projects and a thematic analysis at the programme level; the fourth and last chapter of the report includes the most relevant messages for EU regions and a set of targeted policy recommendations for policy makers and practitioners at all levels.
1. Approach, methods, and tools
The main goal of the INTERREG IVC Thematic Programme Capitalisation exercise is to exploit the knowledge gained from projects working on similar topics for the benefit of all regions in Europe. Due to its local, regional, and European relevance as well as for its representativeness across INTERREG IVC projects, ‘E-government services’ was selected as one of the themes to be included in the exercise. A thematic expert was selected to conduct this exercise with the support of the Programme’s Joint Technical Secretariat. The approach used to accomplish the assignment was organised into three phases (depicted in Figure 1):
- Data collection and definition
a. Collect project data available online (INTERREG IVC Database and project websites).
b. Define a taxonomy to classify the knowledge generated by the projects.
- Individual project analysis
a. Contact individual projects to understand their specific nature (site visits or interviews).
b. Use online tools to collect further information and inputs from the individual project participants (online surveys)
- Programme level analysis and conclusions
a. Thematic analysis, to benchmark knowledge and answer programme level questions.
b. Organise a thematic workshop to present results, promote discussion and foster exchange.
c. Synthesise/consolidate conclusions and relevant findings from the exercise.
Figure 1: Approach used in the Capitalisation exercise
Data collection and definition
Out of 111 projects, INTERREG IVC identified six that address ‘E-government services’. These six projects involve 75 partners from 21 EU Member States plus Norway (AT, LU, LT, MT, SI, SK, & CH are not represented in these six projects). This selection provided by the Programme was validated in terms of adequacy and completeness, by collecting and exploring the project information available online and selecting potential core and satellite projects. A description of the groups of projects included in the study is presented in Annexe 1.
Based on the information collected from online sources, a taxonomy was defined to classify the knowledge generated by the projects – good practices identified and transferred; policies addressed and improved; common features / challenges. This taxonomy includes categories that help to classify activities/initiatives into clusters and to better understand how efforts undertaken at different levels are related: for example:* 'Efficiency & Effectiveness' classifies activities that contribute to improving the efficiency of services and efficient management (e.g. telematics support to procedures carried out between town councils and the government);
* 'Infrastructure' classifies activities that contribute to the setting up of the needed infrastructure (hardware, software, communications, etc.) necessary for E-government;
* 'Legal Aspects' classifies activities related to studying and defining regulatory issues that enable E-government services (e.g. related with data privacy and security); and the service’s target (who is the final user?) or scope (local, regional or national).
The proposed taxonomy, presented in Table 1, gives a standardised description of the services listed for benchmarking by the EC DG INFSO, OECD, UN studies and epractice.eu initiative findings.
Table 1: E-government taxonomy used in this exercise
E-government Taxonomy classifiers Efficiency & Effectiveness Infrastructure Benchmarking of services Interoperability Inclusive E-government Legal Aspects E-identity and E-security Multi-channel Delivery E-participation, E-democracy and E-voting Open Source E-procurement Policy Services for Business Regional and Local Services Services for Citizens User-centric Services
These classifiers were then grouped according to the E-government paradigm or development phase to which they are related, according to the following aggregation categories:- Infrastructure (including the ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Interoperability’, ‘Legal Aspects’, ‘Multi-channel Delivery’, and ‘Open Source’ classifiers which relate to initiatives that create the conditions for the development of E-government).
- Government-centric (including the ‘Efficiency & Effectiveness’, ‘Benchmarking of services’, ‘Inclusive E-government’, ‘E-identity’ and ‘E-security’, ‘E-procurement’ classifiers which relate to initiatives that promote E-government for the benefit of the administration).
- Citizen-centric (including the ‘E-participation’, ‘E-democracy’ and ‘E-voting’, ‘services for business’, and ‘services for citizen’ classifiers which relate to initiatives that promote E-government for the benefit of the citizen).
- Society-centric (including the ‘Policy’, ‘regional and local services’, and ‘user-centric services’ classifiers which relate to initiatives that promote E-government for the benefit of society).
At the same time, this information can be classified in relation to the service’s target, i.e. for whom the service is being provided. The following targets were defined:- Government to Employee (G2E) (focus on administrative issues, and targeting government employees).
- Government to Business (G2B) (focus on business issues, and targeting companies).
- Government to Citizen (G2C) (focus on citizenship and tourism, and targeting citizens).
- Citizen to Citizen (C2C) (focus on the civil society, and targeting citizen to citizen communication).
Individual project analysis
Based on the preliminary analysis of available online information and its classification according to the defined taxonomy, an online questionnaire was sent to each of the projects involved in the format of a ‘Good Practice Survey’ (see Annexe 7). The goal was to gather further information on the practices, lessons learnt and policy recommendations as well as a classification of the practices from a project perspective (taxonomy) with a view to carrying out a more in-depth assessment. The online survey also included a set of questions to gather further insight – respondents were also asked to discuss: ‘Why should this be considered as a Good Practice?’ (perceived value); ‘What particular features make it unique?’ (singular approach); ‘To what extent is the Good Practice replicable?’ (transfer potential).
Responses to the survey included 22 responses (13 related to E-government Services), and a classification of these responses is presented in Table 2 and Table 3, according to paradigm and to target (respectively). An analysis of the results will be further performed in chapter 3 of this report.
Table 2: Classification of the responses to the online survey (paradigm)
Table 3: Classification of the responses to the online survey (target)
Programme-level analysis and conclusions
An aggregated analysis of the data collected was carried out in relation to two dimensions: paradigm and target. The paradigm is related to the adoption model (stages) while the target is related to the final beneficiary of the service. Grouping this information together in terms of the E-government paradigm and target was the first step for the analysis, as presented in chapter 3.
The thematic workshop held in Brussels in October 2012 included two interactive exercises. The objectives of the interactive exercises were to discuss and disseminate interesting practices and policies available within the partner regions of the six core projects present for the workshop. Details on the thematic workshop and on the interactive exercises are available in Annexe 5. The objective of the interactive exercise was to discuss ‘best’ Good Practices and pre-requisites for the implementation’ and ‘transfer potential of Good Practices and policies’.
The final activity in this phase aimed at drawing conclusions and making relevant recommendations, which will be presented in chapter 4.
2. Definitions and acronyms
“E-government is defined as the employment of the Internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to the citizens.”
United Nations, 2006; AOEMA, 2005
“The purpose of public services should be self-explanatory. They are there to serve the public, whether that is citizen or business.”
Brendan Howlin TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Ireland)
E-government is not easy to define, since many different definitions are used in the public domain; defining it too narrowly as electronic service delivery only will result in an exercise that is overly complex and costly, and such a definition will also miss the transformative potential of E-government to speed-up decision-making, streamline or reduce processes, or reduce costs of engagement. As such, for the purpose of this report, the definition from the ‘Digital Agenda for Europe’ will be used:
“E-government is about using tools and systems made possible by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide better services to employees, businesses and citizens.”
ICT is already widely adopted by government bodies at different levels, just as it is by businesses but the provision of E-government services involves much more than just the use of the tools made available by ICT.
Effective E-government involves rethinking the organisation and processes, interaction models, changing mind-sets and behaviours so that services can be delivered more effectively and efficiently to the people who need to use them. Implemented well, E-government enables not only the government to be more efficient, but also enables all citizens, enterprises and organisations to carry out their business with government more easily, more quickly, at a lower cost and with an increase in the perceived quality of service.
The availability of online public services (‘supply-side’) has been, until recently, the primary focus of E-government, but over the last years, citizen usage of E-government services (‘demand-side’) has become a priority issue.
- Evolution of E-government: Towards a more society-centric approach
In line with the global trend towards a more citizen-centric approach as driven by the demand for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the public sector, this new paradigm of E-government encourages governments to take account not only of the supply side but also the demand side of E-services.
- Emerging information services/pushing information over the Internet: Government websites provide information on public policy, governance, laws, regulations, relevant documentation, and types of government services provided. They have links to ministries, departments and other branches of government. Citizens are easily able to obtain information on what is new in the national government and ministries and can follow links to archived information.
- Enhanced information services/ two-way communications: Government websites deliver enhanced one-way or simple two-way E-communication between government and citizens, such as downloadable forms for government services and applications. The sites have audio and video capabilities and are multi-lingual, among other features.
- Transactional services/conducting transactions: Government websites engage in two-way communication with their citizens, including requesting and receiving inputs on government policies, programmes, regulations, etc. Some form of electronic authentication of the citizen’s identity is required to successfully complete the exchange. Government websites process non-financial transactions, e.g. E-voting, downloading and uploading forms, filing taxes online or applying for certificates, licences, and permits. They also handle financial transactions, i.e. where money is transferred on a secure network to government.
- Connected services/Governance: Government websites have changed the way governments communicate with their citizens. They are proactive in requesting information and opinions from the citizens using Web 2.0 and other interactive tools. E-services and e-solutions cut across the departments and ministries in a seamless manner. Information, data, and knowledge are transferred from government agencies through integrated applications. Governments have moved from a government-centric to a citizen-centric approach, where E-services are targeted to citizens through life cycle events and segmented groups to provide tailor-made services. Governments create an environment that empowers citizens to be more involved with government activities so as to have a voice in decision-making.
Figure 2: Four stages of service development (paradigm vs. target)
To better illustrate the concepts and ideas behind the different stages of development of E-government Services, Table 4 presents examples of services in each of these development phases.
Table 4: E-government Services adoption scenarios (different stages of development)
Sample E-government Services scenarios
Stage 1: The agency has a website that publishes information about itself and its services. Users have read-only access and can download documents.
Stage 2: Quite close to 1, an agency allows Internet users to access the agency database(s) and to browse, explore, and interact with data. Users can access a database anonymously; for example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides census data online. Stage 3: A big jump from 2, where an agency allows users access as in stages 1 and 2 and also permits them to input secure information and engage in transactions with the agency. The agency has resolved the authentication issue, knows who the user is, and can provide user-targeted information. Stage 4: Close to 3, where, in addition to the level of access permitted in stage 3, the agency, with the user’s prior approval, shares information provided by the user with other government agencies. Authentication has been resolved and the agency is sharing user information with other agencies, for example, change of address information.
This section lists and defines a set of acronyms that are used in this report.
DAE Digital Agenda for Europe
EGDI E-government Development Index
ERDF European Regional Development Fund
EU European Union
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
FOSS Free and Open Source Software
GPL General Public License
ICT Information and communication technology
OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
PPP Public-private partnership
RFEC Regions for Economic Change