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eGovernment in the European Union: Frequently Asked Questions
Commission Européenne - MEMO/05/83 08/03/2005
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Brussels, 8 March 2005
To what extent is e-Government important to increase Europe’s competitiveness?
eGovernment is already significantly increasing the efficiency and quality of public services.
The use of electronic public procurement can reduce costs by as much as 5% of the total (as described in the Commission’s electronic public procurement Action Plan.) Public sector purchases in Europe represent about 15-20% of GDP, that is some €1500-2000 billion (!). Saving just 1% of such costs means saving tens of billions per year.
eGovernment can also significantly increase the quality of public services. It helps to increase the transparency of public administrations, and thus fight corruption and encourage better implementation of public policies.
The importance of eGovernment for the efficiency of the public sector was also highlighted in the Commission’s 2004 Competitiveness Report.
Finally, we have been investigating the relationship between national innovative strength, based on the Commission’s innovation scoreboard report, and the perceived quality of public administrations, based on data from the World Economic Forum. This relationship appears strong, suggesting that the quality of public administrations matters for innovative successes – and thereby competitiveness – at the national level.
In these cases the benefits are less time lost and cost savings for businesses or citizens. This immediately benefits Europe’s economy.
What has the EU done so far to bring public services online in Europe?
One of the priorities of the eEurope 2005 action plan was that basic public services should be available on-line by 2005. This is largely being achieved. Progress has been encouraged through:
Ministerial conferences in 2001 and 2003 that created a strong political commitment to eGovernment;
The comparative benchmarking as illustrated by the present study
The promotion of real-life good practices, as done through the eGovernment Awards.
What is the Capgemini study of 4 March 2005? What does it measure?
The study, executed under the Commission’s eEurope 2005 programme, focuses on the online availability and sophistication of 20 public services (12 for citizens, 8 for businesses).
The Capgemini study does not measure actual use of these services or the impact, e.g. on cost- or time-savings. For this, please see IP/05/41.
Has Europe made progress regarding e-Government?
Significant progress has been made in online availability as witnessed by the Capgemini study presented today, and also in terms of political visibility through Ministerial Conferences, policy positions by the European Commission, Council and other institutions. Strategic planning has been progressing rapidly at all levels: all countries have eGovernment strategies in place and have often now an office specifically responsible for eGovernment. In some cases these offices are immediately attached to the Prime Minister (e.g. France, UK, Portugal). eGovernment action plans have been developed at regional and local level.
Did enlargement from EU15 to EU25 greatly reduce the average level of online availability of public services?
The EU average fell but only marginally. The index of sophistication, the measurement of online availability taking into account degree of interactivity fell from 72% for EU 15 to 65% for EU 25. The 10 new member states are currently in the position that the old EU 15 were about 2 years ago. This does not mean they will take 2 years to catch up. This is the first survey including the new member states and we have no information on their growth rates. Other evidence, for example on overall internet penetration and usage shows some of them are growing very rapidly.
Putting basic services online was a target of eEurope 2002, what is eEurope 2005 trying to achieve?
The first stage was to get services online and this was the target of eEurope 2002. Progress was benchmarked by monitoring 20 basic services and by the target date, end 2002, most were available to some degree in EU15. The aim of eEurope 2005 was to develop modern online public services to exploit the efficiency gains of information and communication technologies and to give citizens and businesses better services available online where and when they were needed. The current measurement focuses on availability but also looks at the degree of sophistication of services delivery and shows advances across the EU. The Commission will now try to monitor the take-up of services to identify and exchange good practices and will also examine how the ‘back office’ has been integrated to maximise efficiency gains and hence boost productivity in the public sector.
There is a wide spread in the average level of availability between Member States; has this increased or decreased during the course of eEurope?
Statistically the spread of national figures has reduced; the standard deviation fell from 14.2% in 2001 to 9.9% in 2004. This means the average gap between each Member State and the EU average figure fell to just under 10 percentage points.
What happens if a service is not available in a particular Member State?
If a given country does not offer a particular service this service is excluded from the calculation and has no effect on the final figure for that country or the EU average. In total there are 28 countries and 20 services (i.e. 560 country-services). Of these, 14 were excluded because they are fully automatic or delivered by intermediaries and 15 that were not offered. Examples of automatic services are car registration by car dealers and automatic child allowances. Examples of non-existing services are notification of a change of address, for which there is no obligation in some countries, and medical costs for which no reimbursements are made.
Online availability of services has increased, has use of the services also grown?
No evidence on this is available from this survey but the household survey done by Eurostat and the national statistical institutes (NSI) shows continued growth in use of public sites. The proportion of the population obtaining information from public web sites grew from 16.8% in 2002 to 25.2% in 2004, a growth of 50% in 2 years. The household survey found similar increases in the proportions taking part in more sophisticated interactions with public services: a 61% increase in those downloading forms and a 67% increase in those submitting filled forms electronically (time series data only available for EU15). A Eurostat/NSI enterprise survey showed even more intensive use of public sites by enterprises with now 15% of EU25 companies carrying out full electronic case handling with public authorities.
Do you have any further information on take-up and impact?
The Commission’s January 2005 Top of the Web study published findings on time- and cost-savings for companies and businesses. See press release IP/05/41. Millions of hours and euros are already being saved, e.g. by online tax filing. The potential is, however, much larger, and depends upon both increasing take-up and on making services more sophisticated, so that they can deal with the full online transaction process and not only the phase of information provision. This finding is in line with the Capgemini study.
The need for better insights into impact and take-up has been pointed out in the Commission’s eGovernment Communication and in the Council Conclusions on eGovernment. Consequently the Commission has recently launched, under the MODINIS programme, a study on financing / economics / benefits of eGovernment, which will help shape the design of a new impact measurement framework.
A study on take-up is being undertaken by the eUSER project, financed by the EU’s Information Society Technology programme. Results will be available in a few months.
What is the Commission doing to promote take-up of eGovernment services?
Take-up is the key to eGovernment success. Successful eGovernment is promoted through “success stories” and efforts to spread good practices.
European eGovernment Awards were made by the European Commission at the eGovernment Ministerial Conference of 2003 and the prizes will again be given in the November 2005 eGovernment Ministerial Conference in Manchester, UK. The 60 best cases are also expected to be presented at an exhibition at the conference. This is a prestigious Award, with a very high level of interest.
There is great potential for promoting and exchanging good practices across Europe. The Commission has recently awarded a contract to set up an eGovernment Good Practice Framework. This will not only give visibility to successful cases but also analyse them so that learning from others’ experiences and the transfer of good practice are accelerated. Other studies recently launched, include work on electronic identity and interoperability.
The eTEN programme provides possibilities for large scale validation of pilot eGovernment services, so that they can ultimately achieve a wide take-up.
The main efforts to increase take-up are made by Member State authorities. They use a variety of means, from financial or time incentives (e.g. permission to submit a tax filing later online than by paper) to actively promote the use of online public services.
Are there examples of current best practice?
There are best practice examples from all countries. Here is a selection:
in the Netherlands, introduction of a new systems and processes for housing benefits resulted in a reduction of applications needing manual processing from 1million to 180,000 and contributed significantly to a €23million year operating cost reduction.
In Denmark, improving the support for student services reduced processing time for students claims, giving them access to their money faster. It also improved significantly the quality of many jobs within agencies as well as reducing the number of staff required. In one, the administration staff has been reduced by 12% while the number of customers being served have increased by 15%.
Spain’s changes to its tax systems resulted in better realisation of organisational goals; reduced paperwork and red tape; less errors, higher quality of data; reduced transaction (process) time and therefore cost reduction (for example almost no process costs for online filings) and increased customer satisfaction. The customers benefited through access 24/7, flexibility; reduced process time; higher service level and transparency.
What else can be expected later this year and when?
The most important eGovernment event of this year is expected to be the eGovernment Ministerial Conference, co-organised by the UK Presidency and the European Commission. The conference will be held 24-25 November, in Manchester.
The conference will focus on delivering the real benefits of eGovernment for citizens and businesses and on transforming public administrations to make them contribute fully to growth, employment and inclusion in Europe.
The conference will also feature the eGovernment Awards. A Ministerial Declaration is expected to be adopted.
The conference is being prepared with the help of the eGovernment group of leaders and representatives of the national eGovernment initiatives. They have already delivered important recommendations for the future of eGovernment (Cobra recommendations) and are now working on defining concrete objectives for eGovernment 2010.
What are the next concrete steps for the EU to enhance the use of eGovernment in Europe?
Concrete steps include:
Promoting the exchange of good practices, through the eGovernment good practice framework, eGovernment Awards and Ministerial Conference, where take-up and impact will be made highly visible;
Good practice related projects, as well as pilots in the eTEN programme that demonstrate impact and provide the building blocks and examples of replicable solutions;
Inclusion of eGovernment as part of i2010 – Information Society 2010, the new and comprehensive ICT strategy as announced by Commissioner Reding;
Further cooperation between Member States is actively being pursued, e.g. within the eGovernment subgroup of eEurope 2005 and programme committees on major issues such as the measuring take-up and impact, the use of electronic authentication for public services and interoperability.