Ireland has slipped from the top countries in Europe leading the way in terms of e-government growth, as the pace of overall e-government progress appears to be slipping across Europe, a report commissioned by the European Commission has found. While European governments seemed to be sophisticated at gathering taxes online, for example, they failed miserably across the board in terms of providing services back to the citizen.
The report, which was conducted on behalf of the EU by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, looked at the progress that Europe is making in providing online services at a citizen and business level across the 15 EU member countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
In 2002, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland were seen as making the most progress in terms of two-way interaction and online sophistication of public services between government and citizens.
However, by 2003 Denmark, Austria and Sweden are now regarded as leading the way in terms of two-way interaction between citizens and their respective governments, with Austria seen as having made the most progress overall.
According to Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, whilst the adoption of e-government continues to grow, the pace of this growth slowed between 2002 and 2003. The level of online sophistication grew seven percentage points and is now at 67pc of EU countries as opposed to 60pc in 2002 and 45pc in 2001. Austria was seen as making the most progress over a 12-month period.
In 2003, progress was such that the research by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young moved on to focus on the number of public services that are fully transactional online. In this way, only 45pc of services offered by European governments are fully available online.
In 2002, only Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed progress towards two-way interaction. Today, almost all of the countries measured are reported to have improved the average level of online sophistication of their public services beyond one-way interaction, from government to the users, towards two-way interaction in both directions.
Some 20 basic public services have been identified, eight for citizens and 12 for businesses; with the level of interaction ranging from simple online information provided to full electronic transaction-based measures.
These areas included income-generating services where payment flows from citizens and business to the government (such as taxes); registration services such as birth, death and marriage certificates; permits and licenses for building houses, running businesses and vehicles; and returns from government to citizens and businesses.
According to Cap Gemini Ernst & Young nearly every country surveyed made progress in these areas.
Services for business reached an overall score of 79pc for online sophistication and 63pc for being fully available online. Across Europe, services for citizens remained at the previous level of 58pc for online sophistication and only 32pc for being fully available online.
Across Europe, services enabling the collection of taxes, such as Ireland’s Revenue Online Services (ROS), were more sophisticated than those where the government is required to provide a service to the citizen such as permits and registrations.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young urged countries to put more effort into developing transactional e-government applications for non-return services. “A higher level of online development of those services will enhance the adoption of e-government services by users”, the company stated.
“Clearly Europe’s nation states continue to make good progress in eGovernment. However taking the measure of Europe’s progress on services fully available online the picture is rather pessimistic. The EC will want to encourage member states to enhance the number of public services fully available online particularly those aimed at citizens,” said Stan Cozon Cap Gemini Ernst & Young’s public sector global leader.
By John Kennedy
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