Chapitre Wallonie de l'Internet Society (Isoc Wallonie) Acteur pour l'Avenir de la Wallonie


e-Government and administrative simplification
Some considerations

Giuseppe Zilioli
European Commission
Information Society Technologies: Systems and Services for the Citizen 
Applications relating to Administrations

Namur, 08.12.2001.

Comments related to the power point presentation

- ISSUES relating to the Administrations
- ISSUES relating to legal contest
- Indications from the field
- The Future



eGovernment can be described as a strategic framework for public services. The strategy challenges all public sector organisations to innovate and the centre of government to provide the common infrastructure needed to achieve these goals.

eGovernment can be considered to have four guiding principles:


Building services around citizens' choice. When people interact with government they want to do so on their own terms. People should not need to understand how government is organised. A strategy is needed to develop a partnership among public organisations to co-operate in offering their services in ways that make sense to the customer.

Making government and its services more accessible. This means that all services that can be electronically delivered should be accessible over Internet, mobile phones, digital TV, call centres, PCs as well as conventional means.

Social inclusion. New services must be developed so that they are available to all and easy to use. This includes providing services for minorities such as language groups and those with disability or limited mobility.

Better use of information. The government's knowledge, information and data are valuable resources. At the heart of the strategy is the need for the public sector to make the best use of this resource.


In most cases the Member state governments have been slow to react to the potential of the Internet. Local governments have taken the early initiatives and most member state governments have accelerated their rate of reaction in the past two years. This has been mainly due to e-commerce considerations. Upgrading the provision of administrative services to the citizen has been of secondary importance when placed alongside matters of national economy.


The Inter-Ministerial Conference in Lisbon on April 2000 has demonstrated a very promising quantum shift in the attitude of Member state governments to the e-economy. There it was obvious that Government and Public Administrations have all agreed to act upon the realisation that quick action is imperative. It was also obvious that the current situations of the Member states are very diverse. In all cases the provision of services for mobile citizens between member state governments is embryonic.


Public administrations have started to integrate Information Society tools in their internal operations. The need to modernise is the primary motivation and the relatively new concept of government as business has also been a basic motivation for public authorities’ interest in the area. In addition, budgetary pressures also have contributed. However, the new tools have been adopted on an ad hoc basis. Rather, a comprehensive transformation seems more and more to be necessary in conjunction with the training of public employees because it is recognised that the pace of change in the PA does not match the private sector one. We must then ask ourselves if a MAJOR CHANGE is feasible by PA through technology usage only.


The research program results and existing e-government experiences quite clearly indicate that technology is not and cannot be enough for such a change. More is needed like:

        Paradigm shift. The ‘department’ structure of government should go.

        Attitude change on the part of politicians and the management of PA. Career structure and central administration are changing. Personnel employment conditions will change. Teleworking and new different contractual conditions are more and more taking place. A reduction in the number of public employees is a possibility and their manner of serving the public will change.

        A new service delivery philosophy. This is a far more important limiting factor, which has recently started to be addressed. The monitoring exercises that are carried out on the Community research programmes are showing the increasing importance of socio-economic factors in the integration of ICT into everyday life. The next framework programme will include finance for work in this domain.


Further, we should consider others specific issues which complement the answer to the above question.

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ISSUES relating to the Administrations

        New organisational structure for the PA. This area is being actively researched and in some cases PA services are being reorganised. However, it is happening principally at local level. It will take some considerable time before national government is reorganised.

        New IT philosophy. A change from IT unit serving the department to ‘all-pervasive’ computing should be the trend. The pivotal role of the IT manager in PA must change because all managers must be engaged in this process.

        The management of the technology by the PA has been and still is a major and in many cases unresolved problem. The decision-makers in PA are faced with a disruption of their career structure and are leaving the task of adopting the technology to their IT sections. For the most part they continue to compartmentalise IT rather than instituting the organisational changes needed. Many public employees are not fully informed of all aspects of the services that they provide. As those services are delivered on the Internet the role of citizens and public employees will change. Citizens will demand a higher level of service as they become better informed. Service delivery will have to cope with citizens who wish greater freedom to serve themselves. Public administrations will also have to better equip their employees to cope with the increased expectations and depth of demand.

        Staff experience. Several sectors, notably banking and insurance, are exploring the use of expert systems to train and enhance the capabilities of staff and to capture the expertise of experienced staff.

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Indications from the field

I would like now to present the two main conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the “Web-based Survey on Electronic Public Services”, part of the eEUROPE programme which aims to bring the benefits of the information society to all Europeans.

This survey is a benchmark exercise for the 15 EU member states, plus Iceland and Norway, which evaluates the percentage of basic public services available online. The objectives of this benchmark are to enable member states to compare performance, and to identify best practices in order to stimulate progress in the field of eGovernment. A list of twenty common online public services has been drawn up by the Commission and the member states. Twelve of the twenty services are aimed at individual citizens and eight at businesses.


1.      The online development of public services is enhanced by co-ordinated service provision.

2.      Complex administrative procedures require important back-office reorganisations


It was obvious that the best results were achieved by public services with simple procedures and centrally co-ordinated service provision, for example, job searches, income tax, VAT, corporate tax and customs declarations. On the other hand, building permissions, environmental permits and enrolment in higher education are more complex administrative procedures which are co-ordinated by local service providers. These services received the lowest scores in the survey.

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ISSUES relating to legal contest

        Security/Privacy. This is the major impediment to B2C over the Internet. It is being and will be addressed by the EU research programme in the e-commerce domain.

        Trans-national data transfer. From the European Union perspective the implementation of the single market is far from achieved. The national rules and regulations on consumer protection are a main cause of concern to companies trading across countries. It is generally accepted that local rules are necessary because consumers in different member states have different views of what constitutes sales practices. On the other hand it is understood that they should not be an impediment to the implementation of the single market. Regulation for e-commerce must address this problem before eGovernment can fully develop. In this respect the development of cross-border telematic applications is, more and more, identifying the legislative impediments to their deployment.

        New concepts of service delivery are also posing challenges for the legislators. Improvements in convenience and quality can be achieved if public services are opened up to delivery through a variety of channels including those owned and managed by the commercial sector. It is essential to ensure that any such channels live up to the high standards of trust, confidentiality, security and accountability expected of government services. Legal frameworks must be put in place to regulate this and associated new technology utilisation. The challenge to administrations is to adapt quickly, to continue to put the legislation in place to manage the changes and to encourage innovators in governments to identify new ways of working in partnership with the private sector.

        E-Democracy concept. The understanding of this term differs from member state to member state. State databases of the type that exist in some Nordic countries could not exist in other member states. Research in the e-democracy domain has been undertaken and together with e-voting and the digital divide, a new wave of projects will soon deliver results on these topics.

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Finally nobody knows for certain what the future holds. Local government is leading the way in the introduction and use of the technology. It will not deliver its true benefits until national government provide the access to the information required to enable truly citizen centric single access service points.

Increasingly, Public Administrations will have to adopt new management methods of communities that include growing virtual components. The business of government is being transformed. The nature of governance is also changing with the nature of democratic institutions and the relationship between the citizen and the state is under examination. A new paradigm for the provision of public services through a variety of information providers is emerging.

The pace of change will be dictated, not by the availability of technology, but by contextual constraints such as internal resistance to change, lack of interest or acceptance and lack of response by legislators.

To really integrate a revolutionary new technology or practice into everyday life we must wait until those who have learned it in school grow up and use it. Each generation seems to depend upon its schooling. If this model is valid then we will not see the intuitive use of ICT until the current generation of schoolchildren has entered the working population.

We must realise, however, that we are in an experimental period in what will be a lengthy process of change. Nonetheless, public and general interest services delivery will indeed be revolutionised over the coming decades. In the end we will see the real benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and cost effectiveness that will emerge for public service delivery.

We think reasonable that a predicted time scale to complete electronic government service provision is at least 10 years, but probably more.


I thank you all for your kind attention.


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