The European Commission is preparing a new eGovernment action plan for Europe, covering the period 2016-2020. A roadmap has been published, and a series of workshops is being organized, as well as a public consultation – stakeholders can provide their input until 22 January 2016. Also, a conference has been organized under the Luxembourg presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The action plan will succeed previous eGovernment action plans and complement the ISA2 program in much the same way as previous eGovernment action plans complemented the IDA, IDABC and ISA programs (that are centered around cross-border interoperability). The new action plan will be framed within the context of the Digital Single Market in much the same way as the previous action plan was framed within the context of the Digital Agenda for Europe and Europe 2020.
Comparing these plans for the new action plan with the previous plans, one remarks a great sense of continuity: the roadmap speaks about 4 main policy objectives: modernising public administrations with ICT; enabling cross-border mobility with digital public services; facilitating digital interaction between administrations and citizens and business; and standardisation, sharing and re-use of key digital enablers – these are more or less the same objectives that were highlighted in previous action plans. Continuity is of course a good thing, but one can wonder how many additional action plans will be needed before these objectives will be reached. The same can be said about working towards a “single digital gateway” and also, the promotion of e-procurement and of eID and eSignature, which are elements of the previous action plans that very likely will figure again in the new one.
The roadmap lists a services of principles that will be taken into account when actions will be defined under the new action plan. Most of them were already present in earlier action plans: actions should lead to public services that are, by default, inclusive, cross-border and digital, that protect personal data and that respect the “once-only” principle – citizens and businesses should not need to provide the same information to multiple administrations. Interesting additional principles that have not yet figured prominently in earlier plans are the “no legacy” principle (no infrastructure or applications older than 15 years should be kept – the authors seem to have forgotten that both the Internet and the PC are much older than 15 years) and, more relevant and interesting, the request that all actions should be open for reuse and for transparency. Can this be interpreted as meaning that software developed under these actions should be made available to others for reuse (under open source licenses)?; and – maybe more importantly – that such software should also be available for inspection (to verify whether the software correctly implements the underlying legislation and the agreed administrative procedures)?
Another interesting aspect is that the Commission will opt for a more dynamic approach in which not everything will be carved in stone at the start of the period, and the action plan can be adapted to changing circumstances. The Commission is preparing an online platform were stakeholders can suggest and discuss new actions or changes to existing actions.
Although it is not clear how this is linked to the preparation of the new eGovernment action plan, an interesting initiative of the European Commission is the study on “Open Government Services”. The tentative definition of open government services highlights not only openness (with an emphasis on accountability), but also collaboration – the co-creation of public services and/or value added services by administration, economical actors and civil society. This goes much further than the “cooperation between citizens and the public sector” that is mentioned in the consultation.
At present, OpenForum Europe is preparing its input to the consultation – stay tuned.