How can expertise and know-how about digital administration (eGovernment) be shared between countries? Numerous experts, decision makers and members of society discussed this issue in Tallinn at the start of October.
During the event, EU Member States and the EFTA States reaffirmed their pledge in a joint declaration (the Tallinn Declaration) to further link their public electronic services; to implement the eIDAS Regulation; and to introduce the once-only principle. This is the only way to provide efficient and secure digital public services. Digital solutions could help to improve confidence in governments and make the life of all Europeans easier and more productive.
The digital age
The crux of the Tallinn Declaration is the question of what the future can look like as a result of digitalisation. Specifically, it deals with the need to make public administrations ready for the digital age; ensuring the digital skills and adaptability needed to perform new forms of work; and a European approach to cybersecurity.
The issue of eGovernment has been present in European politics for more than 15 years. However, the ministers noted that the state apparatus and the public sector in Europe are slow in moving into the digital age. Digitalisation is imperative because the potential for acquiring information and the handling of procedures have increased dramatically. Therefore, digitalisation is vital to the future of the Digital Single Market, public administrations and society.
However, due to the increase in global digitalisation, societies and authorities are faced with serious social, ecological, economic and political challenges. The development of eGovernment plays a key role in tackling these challenges. This is especially true given that eGovernment services are not only essential for cost-efficient, people-friendly public administration but also for ensuring the safe and free traffic of data.
Objective of the Tallinn Declaration
The Ministers emphasised at the digital summit that public administration in the digital age must be open to all citizens and businesses at all levels of administration, while also being efficient and inclusive. The goal is to offer borderless, interoperable, personalised, user-friendly, end-to-end digital public services across all of Europe.
In order to achieve this goal, the following policy action lines are to be implemented in every Member State and the EU institutions within the next five years
- Digital by default
- Inclusiveness and accessibility
- The principle of once only
- Trustworthiness and security
- Openness and transparency
- Interoperability by default
- Improvement of digital skills within public administrations
Bringing the public sector into the digital age
The digital summit was initiated by the incumbent Estonian Presidency of the Council. Estonia is a country that plays a pioneering role in terms of digital progress. The Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, emphasised during the summit that government and the public sector must be brought into the digital age. The long-term goal must be to make it possible for EU citizens and businesses to digitally conduct all government proceedings which deal with the free movement of people, capital, goods and services. He also stated that Europe needs a common European approach to cybersecurity and should function as a single European cyberspace. According to Ratas, Europe needs to accelerate the digital transformation of industry by taking up the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and high-performance computer systems. People must be prepared for the digital age and equipped accordingly. Digital skills are the new literacy and should be taught universally.
Ratas also believes that most of the goals for modernising infrastructure and upskilling of the workforce must be achieved by the Member States themselves, but cooperation at European level might be necessary when coordinating these major goals and implementing them across borders.