Mindsets must change for e-govt to work, says EU

8 Jul 2003

The biggest barrier to e-government is the mindset and rigidity of administrators, according to Erkki Liikanen of the European Commission.

Speaking yesterday at the start of the two-day e-government conference at Lake Como, Italy, the head of the EU Enterprise and Information Society said that changing the way people work rather than wrestling with technology was the big challenge. “Putting the citizen first and creating a culture of service will in many instances mean reforming the public sector,” he warned.

Liikanen went on to call for commitment towards e-government from the highest level: “e-government cannot be led by the IT department. It has to be the highest level, Prime Ministers, Ministers, Mayors who commit themselves and lead by example. Overcoming barriers between government departments and internal resistance requires strong political will.”

He stressed the need for a practical roadmap, starting small and scaling up fast. He talked of his own department’s eEurope 2005 initiative, a roadmap for stimulating effective participation in the information society that emphasises the role broadband communications has to play.

“Content, services and applications in e-government, e-health and e-learning, will stimulate the use of broadband. Better infrastructure, widely available and secure broadband, will stimulate more interesting content, services and applications,” he said.

Earlier in his speech he had defined the three key objectives of e-government: open government made more transparent by the use of information technology; inclusive and personalised services made available to all citizens everywhere, and finally, value for taxpayers’ money. “A more productive public sector means better use of public finance, through higher efficiency,” he said.

Liikanen also took the opportunity to highlight three, newly launched, pan-European services. The first was a one-stop job mobility portal for European-wide job-search, the second a service for dealing with administrative obstacles in cross-border procedures and the third, EURODAC, which allows European authorities to cope more efficiently and fairly with the growing demand of asylum procedures by offering a common fingerprints database search facility.

The conference continues today.

By Ian Campbell