Key policy messages and Conclusions

This report presents the main outcomes of the Capitalisation exercise under the theme ‘E-government services’. The six core projects considered relevant for this theme are presented with regard to their goals, approaches, main results, and findings. The six projects are quite heterogeneous, providing different experiences and approaches; however, many similarities exist between the Good Practices, lessons learnt, and policies developed. This creates a great knowledge-sharing opportunity that could be further explored, not only by the projects directly involved in the exercise, but also by all projects related with E-government.

This section lists some of the overarching policy challenges that arose from the analysis and from the identified trend towards society-centric E-government. These challenges are inevitably broad and most are not new; they are already being addressed in local, national, and European (research) policy agendas. Nevertheless, they are still highly relevant, as they are far from being resolved and policies are still needed to overcome the issues.

These recommendations focus on actions and strategies that need to be developed now in order to address the priorities identified the E-government action plan priorities and actions. They are organised into political, technological, and socio-economic recommendations. This section ends with some concluding remarks that reiterate the main findings from the exercise.

4.1 Trends in E-government

Increasingly powerful and user-friendly technologies are creating opportunities for authorities to offer new ways to interact with citizens, allowing them to respond to citizens’ needs more effectively and to guarantee their active participation. The private sector has been making use of multiple channels for a long time, taking advantage of the introduction of smartphones, interactive voice response systems, digital television, and self-service terminals. Such initiatives encourage citizens to envision new forms of interaction, wanting service providers to be as accessible and responsive as modern technology allows. 

Why is integrated E-government service delivery so hard, and what are the key lessons that can be drawn from this exercise?

The problem does not lie in the technology but in the political challenge of rewiring a range of public sector programmes delivered by different levels of government – often with different requirements – for citizens.

To effectively increase use of E-government services, more effective policies and strategies need to be put in place to help overcome usage differences and divides:

  • Designing and providing citizen-centric services with user-focus (e.g. in IMMODI, DLA).
  • Narrowing the usage divide across and within countries (e.g. in PIKE and eCitizen II)
  • Leveraging social media for greater E-government service take-up (e.g. in I-SPEED)
  • Using open data for better public service and greater use (e.g. in PIKE and OSEPA).
  • Providing additional incentives for E-government service use (e.g. in I-SPEED)

Focusing on a few principles for E-government services and the way in the which these principles are ad-dressed by the different projects and practices clearly highlights the key policy messages resulting from the projects. These ideas are summarised in Figure 10 and discussed in the next sections. They are broken down into Political, Technical and Socio-economic recommendations.

Figure 10: Principles, challenges, and policy recommendations

Figure of Principles, challenges, and policy recommendations

4.2 Political recommendations

The trend towards an increasingly networked E-government will involve cooperation and coordination at all levels of government as well as among stakeholders and intermediaries (citizen groups and local companies) at the local, regional, national, and European levels. This increases the need for a process of administrative and regulatory trans-European harmonisation that would ensure organisational and technological ‘interoperability’. Such harmonisation is also important to ensure the data protection (security and privacy) rights of citizens and businesses.

Increasing cooperation with all stakeholders and defining long-term adoption roadmaps

Policy strategies and actions need to be based on an explicit value-based vision for future E-government, which specifically includes the realisation of society-centric E-government (user empowerment). Future E-government models need to go beyond mere public service and public sector modernisation (beyond E-government-centric and Citizen-centric), and need to be based on a willingness to change administrative processes and culture. In this sense, the development of incremental transition paths is necessary, possibly based on differentiated adoption roadmaps. This involves a need to look beyond short-term political agendas and implementation issues.
The long-term uptake of roadmaps requires unequivocal political commitment and a strong leadership with an impact on every level of government.

4.3 Technological recommendations

The successfully delivery of E-government requires that services are accessible to all, both in terms of infrastructures, services and necessary (user-friendly) interfaces (usability and multi-channel approaches).

To enable smart ways of cooperating and sharing or producing knowledge among relevant stakeholders stronger investment in technologies and in the training of skilled personnel is needed. FOSS solutions have proven to be valid approaches for delivering E-government, reducing costs but not eliminating the need for skilled people.

Invest in broadband, ICT, support training of staff, and improve internal organisation

The transformation of administrative processes requires back-office reorganisation and simplification; ‘one-stop shop’ or ‘single-window’ approaches require substantial process and workflow redesign that needs to be translated into new information architectures. An additional challenge is that these new architectures need to be flexible and open so as not only to be able to be integrated into existing legacy systems, but also to be dynamic enough to involve other stakeholders other than the administration.

4.4 Socio-economic recommendations

One of the most important barriers to the successful delivery of E-government services is the need to create the conditions for a truly citizen and user-centred public service provision, involving highly developed awareness of citizens’ and businesses’ needs and a constant monitoring of these needs, of user experiences and user satisfaction.

At the same time, an important challenge is to create the conditions for collaboration, coordination, and knowledge sharing necessary for integrated E-government services provision. This has to be built on public-private partnerships, involving all stakeholders in the public service delivery chain. Consequently, new smart and efficient ways of sharing and producing knowledge between these different stakeholders will be increasingly important.

Transparent, light, and inclusive government

This implies providing services that are responsive, reliable, and have the ability to ensure the security and privacy of personal data (‘transparent government’); regulatory barriers for both citizens and businesses to be independent, self-organising and self-regulating must be removed as much as possible (‘light government’); and public services need to equally accessible to all European citizens and business (‘inclusive government’).

4.5 High level recommendations

To conclude the report, a set of high-level recommendations can be made, both for the projects that were included in the E-government Services thematic study and for the INTERREG IVC programme.

Promote success stories
Currently, the level of deployment of E-government services is low, below the targets set by the DAE , and there is strong evidence that lack of awareness of E-government services is the main barrier to a wider take-up. Promotion and awareness campaigns should promote the overall benefits and give general information about what is involved technically, where to find, and how to use services. Good practices from the projects also deserve wider dissemination, and ‘front-runners’ should share their experience with regions starting or in the early stages of their E-government adoption process.

Building on present success
It is important/recommended to continue to build on the successful practices that have been already demonstrated, learn from the strengths and weaknesses of the current process, and assist adopting regions to define roadmaps to help implement policies already put in place, thus bridging the policy-practice gap where it exists. The use of tailored tools for defining this roadmap, such as for example the DLA Self Evaluation Tool, should be encouraged for the adopting regions.

In order to better support cooperation and information sharing between regions, it is recommended that, in future, more tailored instruments for disseminating Good Practices, as well as other important knowledge, are used, for example as part of the E-practice or E-participation portals. More thematically focussed cooperation around specific issues for a number of regions would also be useful.

RE-shifting focus and increasing speed
Now that practices and policies are widely identified for the Government and are Citizen-centric, it is recommended that new projects should shift focus and be stepped up a notch, by concentrating much more on Society-centric mechanisms (user empowerment and engagement) and on the transformation towards more user-centric and user-driven solutions. This means ensuring that users and other legitimate stake-holders are invited into a more participative and empowering relationship with the projects.

Policy focus for the future
The growing trend of offering m-Government services directed at mobile devices needs to be addressed and might be especially relevant in regions where traditional fixed infrastructures are less present. Future demand for government services is likely to come from anywhere and at any time; mobile is best placed to meet this demand. Examples of these new trends, which E-government should embrace, include the numerous mobile, smart and ‘augmented reality’ applications for personal and commercial purposes (often offered for highly specific purposes on local scales), and particularly in the USA, there are already some public services and democracy apps available. These developments are likely to be driven by the rapid transformation of the ‘net generation’ into responsible adults needing public services and demanding the same quality and flexibility that they receive from other providers.

4.6 Concluding remarks

E-government improves the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery, promotes development and helps authorities to use available resources to their best advantage, thus contributing to the economic sustainability of the regions. Initially, E-government efforts were mostly focused on the short term, on getting isolated services online and publishing information without providing for regular updates. But today’s trends point in the direction of an integrated unified model, contributing to higher efficiency and effectiveness of the public services. This model aims at centralising the entry point of service delivery to a single portal where citizens can access all E-government services, regardless of which authority provides that service (United Nations E-government Survey 2012).

The major conclusions from this exercise – resulting from individual analysis and discussion with the projects, from the workshop and from the broad analysis of the E-government landscape in Europe – are related to the incremental nature of an adequate E-government service strategy and to the pre-requisites identified in the projects for successful delivery (in order to overcome existing barriers – Table 5):

  • Compliance with legal and regulatory aspects.
  • Available Infrastructure including wider access to the services (available Wi-Fi/internet services).
  • Interoperability and multichannel delivery (communication with a variety of systems and services).
  • Openness of public and collaboration with local companies.
  • Human resources and skilled people (education and training).
  • Early involvement of stakeholders in the process of ‘co-creation’ of valuable services.

There should also be special consideration given to the cultural and historical background and economic situation and to the early involvement of policy/decision makers and stakeholders in the project, which is key. Although the participation and commitment of local authorities is not always easy to guarantee, their involvement is important for ensuring that the project has a direct impact on regional authorities (applicability).

Examples of Good Practices that were successfully transferred among regions show that using the same approach is not possible in other regions owing to different cultural, historical, and socio-economic realities and maturity. A good example is the Valma initiative (project IMMODI), which incorporates an interesting ‘positive feedback’ effect from the region adopting the practice to the region it originated from. This helps  realise the benefits of technological evolution in the impact/effectiveness of the practice and supporting the decision for a technological update. Moreover, it also shows that different cultural realities – in this case related with the citizen involvement in policy decision-making – create different challenges in the implementation of a practice that has been successful elsewhere.

The incremental nature of an adequate E-government service strategy was one of the other main findings that is relevant to all projects. After the initial foundations are in place (pre-conditions for developing E-government), successful E-government implementation should follow an incremental approach focusing on one priority at a time:

  1. Government-centric (efficiency and effectiveness of E-government and Administration),
  2. Business/Citizen-centric (internal market)
  3. Society-centric (user empowerment).

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