Tallinn declaration on e-government envisions Europe’s digital future

9 Oct 2017

Toompea Hill in Tallinn, Estonia. Image: kavalenkava/Shutterstock

All 28 EU member states and members of the European Free Trade Association take a step towards a unified e-government plan.

Last Friday (6 October), a five-year roadmap was signed by all members of the European Union and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to enable seamless delivery of digital services across all sectors, including the public service.

The main message from the declaration is that the creation of a personalised, interoperable and inclusive end-to-end digital public service should be the main goal for all EU and EFTA countries. Major emphasis was also placed on the need for all government administrations to increase spending on public service modernisation.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Patrick O’Donovan, TD, was the Irish signatory on Friday. The UK minister for government, resilience and efficiency Caroline Nokes signed the declaration, which will not be affected by ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Modernising public service

EU vice-president Andrus Ansip and commissioner Mariya Gabriel said in a joint statement: “We welcome the EU ministers’ pledge to modernise public administrations in Europe, which is an important boost to the digital economy and society.

“European ministers responsible for e-government committed today to accelerate wider use of electronic identification means across the EU. The Tallinn declaration marks, therefore, serious progress for our citizens and businesses.”

The report read: “Development of e-government has a central role to play to meet these challenges and make use of the emerging digital opportunities. Amongst others, the digital transformation can strengthen the trust in governments that is necessary for policies to have effect: by increasing the transparency, responsiveness, reliability, and integrity of public governance.”

The importance of user-centric design and universal accessibility was also laid out in the report, in order to create a digital system that is easy for citizens to use and understand.

eIDAS and the once-only principle

The importance of adhering to the eIDAS standards and the implementation of the once-only principle (a system to ensure that citizens and businesses supply the same information only once to public administration) in order to provide efficient and secure digital public services, were also highlighted.

eIDAS stands for electronic identification, authentication and trust services, and it is a set of regulations and standards for electronic transactions in the European Single Market. These transaction standards encompass aspects such as electronic signatures, timestamps, electronic funds transfers and public service transactions, among others. It came into force in 2014, and has been abided by since last year.

The declaration will hopefully see a secure, safe and efficient digital public service evolve over the next five years, reflecting the connected lives of EU and EFTA citizens. New digitisation developments may mean greater efficiency of communication between citizens and public services across Europe.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects