Mr Erkki Liikanen Member
of the European Commission, responsible for Enterprise and the Information
Society "e-Government and the European Union" The Internet and the City
Conference "Local eGovernment in the Information Society" Barcelona, 21
e-Government and the European Union and Local eGovernment in the Information
Ladies & Gentlemen,
eGovernment is now a central theme in information society policy at all
levels: local, regional, national, European and even globally.
eGovernment is a tool not a goal in itself. It should help to deliver
better government in at least three ways:
Firstly, eGovernment should make it possible for citizens to follow what
their governments, central, regional and local, do, to be able to participate
in decision-making from the early phases onwards, and to verify that public
money is being spent well. eGovernment is a means to realise open government.
Secondly, eGovernment should help to provide citizens personalised public
services that meet their specific needs.
This should hold for anything from personalised online tax forms to meeting
the special needs of people with a disability. eGovernment should enable
inclusive government, that provides individually relevant and usable services
Thirdly, eGovernment should help public administrations to deliver more
value for taxpayers' money by increasing efficiency and productivity.
The public sector, as an information-intensive sector, can be made more
efficient by digitizing information and processes. Examples are eliminating
re-entry of data, reducing the effort to find back information, and case-oriented
workflow. eGovernment should enable more productive government.
Let me now address these three aspects in some more detail.
eGovernment should help to make democracy function better. This is about
increasing democratic participation and involvement. This can begin already
in the early stage of preparation of law-making through wide online consultation.
Decision-making steps should be made visible and transparent. This is
part of the EU's Better Regulation approach.
As another example, the Greek Presidency has launched a specific website
where a public debate is held and opinions are being polled on all kind
of matters, from Iraq to drugs policy to the future of the EU.
'Open government' also means increased transparency and accountability.
Transparency and openness matter, not only because of the democratic control
mechanism of accountability. It is also an economic necessity, to fight
corruption and fraud and thus to make investment more attractive.
ICT is particularly suited to increase transparency. For example in public
procurement all tender information can be made available online at equal
conditions for any party that is interested to bid.
Inclusive and personalised eGovernment
eGovernment should aim to deliver public services in such a way that they
are accessible and relevant for each individual citizens and company.
This means that eGovernment should provide equity, that is, equal rights
and opportunity for participation for all. In other words, realising inclusion.
Equity matters for social justice. It is about what we consider to be
fair and just in our society.
But inclusion also matters economically: there is a cost to exclusion
in terms of under-use of human potential, damages because of drop-out
behaviour, and under-exploitation of the entrepreneurial potential that
immigrants often bring.
We should aim for all citizens to be able to use electronic government,
whether they have less digital skills, are living in remote regions, have
less income, or have special physical or mental needs.
Governments have a much more difficult task to fulfil than businesses.
They cannot choose their clients, they have to serve every one. Where
business can focus on efficiency, public administrations need to pursue
both efficiency and equity.
In terms of technology this means that it would be insufficient to offer
online services only on PCs. Even though PC Internet access has rapidly
rising and is now around 43%, television reaches almost all households.
This is also likely to be the case with the emerging interactive digital
TV, which can become a major means for widespread participation in the
In addition, kiosks in public areas already today are a success in terms
of reach-out. In some countries ATMs are becoming a well-accepted way
to deliver use certain public services such as handling tax receipts and
And let's not forget about mobile phones that are already more pervasive
than PCs - why not make more use of them? In short, we need a multi-platform
However, managing in a consistent and efficient way public service delivery
on multiple online platforms as well as offline will be a considerable
challenge. Some lessons may be learned from multi-channel marketing in
business in this respect.
Providing services that are accessible for all should be taken still one
step further: services should be personalised.
One approach in the public sector could be to organise services around
important life events of individual citizens such as marriage or moving
house, or in the EU single market relocating to a new job in another country.
A related approach is the one-stop shop, which brings all individually
relevant information and services together on the basis of a personal
Taxation has been organised according to this approach in some countries,
where based on such a profile a personalised tax proposal is made.
Two capabilities are needed for such personalised approaches. One is the
capability to produce and deliver personalised services. The internal
organisation, or the back-office, will have to re-organise itself by putting
the client information central.
This often implies technological change, for example, connecting the information
systems that all hold parts of the information, or introducing smart cards
that carry a secure personal profile.
The EU supports projects based on such cards for example for online health
insurance across borders.
Second, it means communication capability, namely to be able to engage
in a profound interaction with the citizen or company and thus find out
about the individual needs.
Such communication capability can take many different forms. One straightforward,
but certainly not trivial example is multi-language support. Another is
personalised online guidance for filling out a tax form.
eGovernment and productivity
The third objective of eGovernment is to increase productivity through
higher efficiency and to offer better quality services and innovation
based on ICT. This will contribute to productivity growth throughout the
Productivity matters as it is the key source to increase real incomes
Productivity, quality and innovation in the public sector will lead to
a) For citizens it means lower costs for public services and better quality
b) For companies productivity can increase if they can get public services
at a lower cost by cutting red tape and reducing waiting time;
c) For the public sector itself, increased efficiency will mean that less
time needs to be spent on routine administrative tasks amd more time is
available for skilled face-to-face interaction in the front-office. By
liberating resources, priorities can be financed such as increased inclusion.
d) Moreover, in some countries efficiency improvement in the public sector
is a necessity because of demographic trends. With an aging population
there will be fewer people available in the public service. They have
to be enabled work more efficiently.
e) Finally, as productivity increases throughout the economy, a larger
tax base is created from which to finance essential public services.
To fully realise the potential for productivity growth it is not sufficient
to introduce new technology. It is also not enough to modernise the front-office
by offering public services over the Internet. Back-office re-organisation
of public administrations will be needed as well.
This requires strong political leadership. There will be resistance to
redesign government processes as often means breaking down barriers between
departments. Therefore eGovernment cannot be led by the IT-department,
even though a good Chief Information Officer is important.
Vision needs to be combined with the willingness to start small, to grow
by learning from the users, and then to scale fast. Such customer orientation
is also the best way to build involvement and credibility.
Taking this effort means investing in organisations and staff. The combined
investment in ICT, organisation and skills does pay off, even though it
may not come overnight.
Better infrastructure, in particular broadband, holds much potential to
further improve efficiency and equity. It will enrich the interaction
with citizens and business, make access much easier and enable new services.
Telecom Ministers have agreed to aim for broadband connections for relevant
public administrations by 2005. We also think that by 2005 half of Internet
connections throughout Europe should be broadband. We believe that today's
Summit of European leaders will support a similar target.
Do we have evidence that ICT leads to increased productivity?
Economists have indeed found confirmation that ICT investment contributes
significantly to productivity growth overall. But there are large differences
between sectors in the economy.
Another striking finding is that the EU has hardly caught up with the
US over the past 25 years in GDP per capita.
Moreover, the year 1995 has been a turning point for productivity growth.
Since then the US has seen an acceleration of productivity whereas Europe
has not further improved.
In Europe we seem not to have benefited as much as the US from ICT investment.
This notably holds in the services sector.
How does productivity growth work out at the level of the company? It
is found that while investment in ICT has normal returns in the short
term, it can pay off far above average in the longer run, that is, some
5-7 years. It takes a number of years but then ICT can deliver above-average
It is also found that ICT only delivers such high returns if it is accompanied
by change in the internal organisation, in business network and customer
relationships and by improvement of skills. In other words, investing
in organisational capital.
The suggested link is that the long-run above-average returns of ICT come
about precisely because there has been substantial and sustained investment
in organisational capital.
Can we apply these results also to the public sector?
It is indeed very likely that in public administrations too, ICT will
only deliver its full potential if accompanied by organisational change
and upgrading of skills.
An eGovernment Website is only a first step to provide easier access to
information. The full benefits of personalised services, one-stop shopping,
self-service, increased transparency and efficiency only come about by
re-thinking the very process of public service delivery.
It is still difficult to accurately measure productivity growth in the
public sector. But it is clear for everyone that by cutting red tape a
doctor will be able to treat more patients. And when the same data do
not need to be re-typed again and again, civil servants can spent more
time on personal contact with citizens.
Action at European level
At European level eGovernment is a clear priority. It figures prominently
in our recently adopted strategy for restoring confidence in the electronic
communication sector. It plays a central role in the eEurope 2005 Action
Plan which sets out to stimulate effective use of the Internet.
The approach of eEurope 2005 is to create a positive feedback loop by
stimulating demand for content, applications, and services while at the
same time removing barriers and creating investment incentives for a secure,
multi-platform and broadband infrastructure.
In terms of content, services and applications the public sector can play
a key role in eGovernment, eHealth and elearning. To free up much useful
content we have proposed a Directive on the re-use of public sector information.
With the Italian Presidency we organise in July this year an eGovernment
conference. Real-life successful examples of productivity and competitiveness,
benefits for citizens, and cooperation amongst administrations will be
exhibited and discussed.
The idea is to stimulate fast learning from each other by exchange of
such good practice. The best will receive a prestigious eEurope Award
for eGovernment. Applications for the Award can still be submitted until
We also emphasise with the Member States the importance of eGovernment
for development in the joint preparation for the World Summit on the Information
Society in December. Again the same themes of openness, inclusion, and
productivity come back.
eGovernment is part of the EU's R&D programme. Research topics include
back-office re-organisation in networks of administrations and new forms
of interactivity at the front-office based on multiple devices.
Technical and standardization challenges are also being dealt with at
European level. Interoperable public services can help for the single
market in Europe. eGovernment should aim to improve the freedom of movement
of goods, services, capital and people.
The level of interoperability is often subject to debate. Should it be
Europe-wide, national, local? This also relates to the extent of subsidiarity
that is desired and desirable. Some argue that certain critical functions,
especially those related to security, have to be managed commonly at the
The program for Interchange of Data between Administrations, IDA, is supporting
interoperability pilots and studies into the closely related topic of
As part of the eEurope Action Plan a framework for interoperable pan-European
eGovernment services will be proposed by the end of this year.
Socio-economic research, surveys, benchmarks and the exchange of best
practice are part of eEurope 2005 and of the EU's R&D programme.
Finally, the Commission is trying to take eGovernment to heart. Our eCommission
initiative addresses themes such as a 'culture of service', better human
and financial resource management across departments, interaction with
the public through Interactive Policy Making. We thus also have some first
hand experience with the challenges of openness, transparency, personalisation,
inclusion, and efficiency.
We should aim to show that eGovernment provides the technical and organisational
means and liberates the resources to reinforce our policy priorities in
areas such as local development, entrepreneurship, social cohesion, cultural
identity, integration of immigrants, fighting digital divide, openness,
When we achieve that goal, decision-makers at all levels in public administrations
will be convinced.
eGovernment should enable an open, inclusive and productive public sector.
It should increase efficiency and equity in public services and put the
user central. If this is shown, citizens and companies will be convinced
as well and become committed eGovernment users.
take a look at the:
the Club of Amsterdam Forum
and the Club of Amsterdam
event about 'Re-Inventing
Democracies for the Future'