Remove e-government barriers, says EU

23 Feb 2006

The European Commission has called for e-government interoperability between all national and regional administration IT systems in the EU. E-government at a pan-EU level, it says, will remove administrative barriers and facilitate the free movement of businesses and citizens within the internal market.

The commission said today that modern public administration has to be built upon digital services together with streamlined e-government processes.

It provided the example of a Swede and an Italian seeking to get married. The couple would need to fill in and provide dozens of papers to get married because the administrations of both countries cannot communicate electronically.

Not only lovers are concerned. Heaps of paper must be piled up when it comes to setting up a company, paying taxes, transferring social insurance rights or participating in procurement activities in another member state.

European Commission vice-president Günter Verheugen, who is responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “The single market relies on modern and efficient public administrations which facilitate the mobility and seamless interaction of citizens and businesses. Interoperability is the basis for working together in the internal market. It will contribute to making Europe an attractive place to live, work and invest.”

One of the major challenges of e-government is the multiplicity of government layers in the EU at the national, regional and local levels. Interoperability in e-government requires that all these layers are able to exchange information and to approach each other for services that are being delivered at a different administrative level.

Commissioner Viviane Reding, who is responsible for information society and media, commented: “Our overall aim must be e-government that delivers tangible benefits for citizens and businesses, everywhere in the EU, leaving no one behind.

“I want to put public administrations at the heart of economic growth and will in the coming weeks propose an EU action plan on e-government. In this action plan,I intend to focus on areas where there is European value added. I also intend to take pragmatic approaches to overcoming some of the key challenges such as interoperability and electronic identification across borders,” Reding said.

In a call for new standards, the commission said it sees a need for interoperability at a number of levels such as the interoperability of administrive processes; ‘life time’ events such as births, marriages and social security; and ‘business events’ such as paying taxes, procurement and setting up a company.

The commission said that government IT systems across the EU must be standardised in order to ‘understand’ each other’s information in terms of semantic interoperability. For example, while birth certificates are standardised documents across the EU, they look different from country to country.

By John Kennedy