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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for inter-institutional relations and administration
The Path to Growth
For a Business Friendly Public Administration / Brussels,
29 October 2013
The essential role of Public Administrations in helping enterprises to exploit fully the potential of the Single Market is widely recognised. In this context, Public Administrations throughout Europe make systematic efforts to meet these expectations in a period of considerable cuts in public spending.
This is not an easy thing to do. The Member States have, for many decades already, put in place their own idiosyncratic systems at local, regional and central levels. The conception of these systems predicated on their administrative structures and on the technologies available at the time they were developed.
And then the Internet arrived: it is hardly twenty years old and we cannot even figure out how we worked, studied, communicated between each other and conducted our daily lives before. However, traditional systems supporting Public Administrations are often older than the Internet!
Our governments are busy trying to adjust to this technological, cultural and cognitive revolution by revamping their systems and more importantly, by re-thinking how to improve and automate their processes, in order to deliver better public services to citizens and businesses.
There is a universally acknowledged need to modernise Public Administrations and transform them into the steering wheel of growth. The Commission itself places this modernisation at a high level, as one of the 5 political priorities in the Annual growth Survey.
e-Government endeavours are present everywhere, guided by a strong demand for governmental transparency and efficiency that can only be fully achieved through the interconnection of Public Administrations at all levels (regional, national, European) and the free use, re-use and distribution of Open Government Data. For this to happen, the key requirement is interoperability which pulls down sectorial and geographical barriers and allows myriads of public systems to get interlinked, and consequently provide better in quality and richer in content public services.
How would this be possible?
New technologies facilitate this modernization and the transformation of Public Administrations into providers of “services at your fingertips”.
In Public Administrations where “electronic collaboration” has been implemented, benefits for the public sector, enterprises and citizens have been already measured.
Let me give you some examples from EU Public Administrations
Electronic invoicing became mandatory in Denmark on 1 February, 2005. The new set-up has resulted in savings of €120-150 million per year due to reduced administrative cost by 80%. The Danish e-invoicing initiative sets a good example to other Member States. It proves that public sector can implement a technological swift that brings significant improvement to delivered services, if there is sufficient political commitment to support it.
Let me also give you some examples of initiatives undertaken by the Commission:
The handling of electronic invoices has many advantages: it is faster, requires fewer resources, and it is easier to follow-up by the contracting parties, compared to the traditional paper workflow. Today the system is widely used by 48 Commission DGs and Executive and Regulatory Agencies.
ePrior is available “free of cost” to any interested Public Administration in Europe.
The Belgian government has announced its intention to reuse it. It is estimated that potential benefits can reach on a yearly basis 2 million € for the suppliers and 7,5 million € for the public.
No more queuing in offices to have documents checked, no more sending of papers by the post, less administrative burden and less time spent.
The system is becoming more and more popular over the years: the number of information requests sent from one Public Administration to another via IMI has increased by 34% this year. More than 20% of requests launched through IMI are answered within the very same day. This means faster decision, approval and recognition procedures, which are of crucial importance in the business world. It also shows that the Internal Market is becoming a reality also in the public sector with Public Administrations overcoming gradually the existing geographical and electronic borders.
Underlying these success stories is Interoperability.
Interoperability, that makes it possible for Public Administrations at different levels and across different sectors to cooperate.
Interoperability, which is also a key element to achieve the full benefits of the availability of Public Sector Information.
How is the Commission supporting you and your Public Administrations in concrete terms?
Concretely, the ISA programme is supporting the development of new tools and services that are made available for free to all interested Public Administrations in any Member State. The two examples I have just mentioned have been developed with the support of this programme. More services and tools are currently under development. Through the programme and in direct consultation with the Member States, specific guidance is provided to EU Public Administrations to ensure that cross-border collaboration between administrations is as smooth as possible and is foreseen in the respective IT systems as a possibility from the start.
The history of the Commission serving Public Administrations is long. Predecessor programmes of ISA started in the 90ies with the goal to establish physical connection between services. Nearly two decades of effort around themes such as eGovernment, interoperability, e-procurement and e-invoicing have brought within reach a suite of mature concepts and tools.
Other Commission initiatives also play a vital part in the materialisation of the Single Market objectives, such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), that aims to support seamless mature cross-border public services (in the area of eProcurement, eHealth, etc.) by putting in place the necessary digital service infrastructures, including broadband.
The Member States’ efforts in modernising their administrations in the Internet Age present both a risk and an opportunity: the risk of building ‘electronic barriers’ to the functioning of the Single Market and the opportunity of creating in less time and at a lower cost, systems that will make the Digital Single Market a reality.
The Commission has taken the necessary steps to ensure that all pertinent initiatives complement each other and have the necessary links well established at all levels.
Let me conclude by linking to the conclusions of the Council last week. The Council has strongly emphasized the need for continued modernisation of Public Administrations and has recognised interoperability as the underlying element for the successful collaboration of public services.