6 European eGovernment Action Plan
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|Commission Communication: The European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015, Harnessing ICT to promote smart, sustainable & innovative Government
|Basis of consideration||Minister's letter of 24 March 2011
|Previous Committee Report||HC 428-xiv (2010-11), chapter 4 (26 January 2011)
|To be discussed in Council||27 May 2011 Telecoms Council
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
6.1 Commission Communication 9981/10 (COM(10) 245) sets out
the Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe (which replaces the
earlier i2010 Strategy). It is the first of seven flagship initiatives
under the "Europe 2020" strategy.
The "Europe 2020" strategy, which was launched by the
Commission in March 2010, is a ten year strategy for smart, sustainable
and inclusive growth, designed to prepare the EU for the challenges
that it will face over the next 10 years. It was endorsed by the
25-26 March 2010 European Council.
6.2 The Digital Agenda focuses on seven priority areas, and
foresees some 100 follow-up actions, of which 31 would be legislative.
The seven areas are:
- creating a digital Single Market;
- greater interoperability;
- boosting internet trust and security;
- much faster internet access;
- more investment in research and development;
- enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion; and
- applying information and communications technologies to address
challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.
6.3 Full details of the Communication and the Government's
views are set out in our Report of 8 September 2010.
The Commission Communication
6.4 The first European eGovernment Action Plan
has seen Member State governments exchange good practice, and
resulted in a number of large-scale pilot projects which are developing
concrete solutions for rolling out cross-border eGovernment services.
The availability of innovative technologies such as social networks
has increased the expectations of citizens in terms of responsiveness
when accessing all kinds of services on line. However, cross-border
eGovernment services are few and, even where eGovernment services
are offered, the majority of EU citizens are reluctant to use
them. The Commission therefore proposed a second eGovernment Action
Plan which aims to realise "the ambitious vision" contained
in the Declaration made at the 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference
(the "Malmö Declaration").
According to this ambitious vision, by 2015 European public administrations
"recognised for being open, flexible and collaborative in
their relations with citizens and businesses. They use eGovernment
to increase their efficiency and effectiveness and to constantly
improve public services in a way that caters for users' different
needs and maximises public value, thus supporting the transition
of Europe to a leading knowledge-based economy."
6.5 The Malmö Declaration sets out four political priorities
for all European public administrations over the next five years:
- citizens and businesses are empowered by eGovernment services
designed around users' needs and developed in collaboration with
third parties, as well as by increased access to public information,
strengthened transparency and effective means for involvement
of stakeholders in the policy process;
- mobility in the Single Market is reinforced by seamless eGovernment
services for the setting up and running of a business and for
studying, working, residing and retiring anywhere in the European
- efficiency and effectiveness is enabled by a constant effort
to use eGovernment to reduce the administrative burden, improve
organisational processes and promote a sustainable low-carbon
- the implementation of the policy priorities is made possible
by creating the appropriate key enablers and by establishing the
necessary legal and technical preconditions.
6.6 The Commission says Governments need to provide better
public services with fewer resources, and that each of the above
political priorities works towards that aim, as well as providing
new and better ways to engage with citizens, citing the emergence
of innovative technologies such as "service-oriented architectures"
(SOA), or "clouds" of services, together with more open
specifications which allow for greater sharing, re-use and interoperability
reinforce the ability of ICT to play a key role in this quest
for efficiency in the public sector.
6.7 An accompanying Action Plan aims at maximising the complementary
nature of national and European policy instruments and supporting
the transition to a new generation of more open, flexible, seamless
and collaborative ICT-enabled public services across Europe. It
envisages three types of measures:
- where Member States are leading and rely on their own resources,
the Commission will help by supporting and coordinating activities;
measures proposed will focus on setting targets with the Member
States and on how to achieve these targets by means of exchanging
best practice, conducting studies and benchmarking;
- where the Commission and Member States work jointly to develop,
deploy or improve cross-border services, the Commission will take
the lead where joint resources are used, while Member States will
bear the final responsibility for implementing activities using
their own resources. The measures proposed will include research
and development, pilot projects, collaborative development and
transfer of knowledge to the market; and
- where the Commission can create enabling conditions, the measures
proposed will include adopting legal instruments, setting standards,
formulating common frameworks, implementing generic tools, providing
re-useable technical building blocks to ensure interoperability.
6.8 The Communication then examines a number of action areas
under the following headings, details of which are summarised
in our previous Report:
- User Empowerment services designed around users needs
and inclusive services
- Internal Market seamless services for businesses
- Efficiency and Effectiveness improving organisational
- Pre-conditions for developing eGovernment Key Enablers
- Pre-conditions for developing eGovernment innovative
The Government's view
6.9 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 18 January 2011, the
Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr Francis Maude) explained that,
though the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has
responsibility for the overall Digital Agenda for Europe, he has
primary responsibility for Government's ICT Strategy, Digital
Delivery, Transparency and Digital Engagement.
6.10 The Minister noted that the objectives outlined in the
European eGovernment Action Plan have implications for other areas
of public sector, including those in the Devolved Administrations:
"The Scottish Executive remarked on the ambitious proposals
of the Action Plan and has requested the Government to keep the
Executive involved in the implementation of the Action Plan using
existing channels. The Executive seek clarification as to how
the UK Government will involve the Executive in taking forward
domestic policy in the areas of eIdentity and Authentication,
the improvement of online access and interoperability frameworks.
"The Northern Ireland Executive have specifically expressed
support for the Commission's proposals for helping the public
sector develop innovative ways of delivering its services to citizens.
The Northern Ireland Government conclude by stressing the necessity
for continued involvement associated with the Action Plan and
their willingness to be involved in the UK's continued collaboration
with the EU."
6.11 He then described the actions outlined in the Communication
as "ambitious but achievable in the 2011-2015 timeframe",
and noted that there were no fundamental policy implications in
the Action Plan. Several of the actions were, he said, already
underway in the UK and a number of others were under consideration
as part of the Government's ICT Strategy and associated workstreams
across the Cabinet Office and other departments. He then comments
in detail on each of the Action Plan areas (see our previous Report
6.12 We noted that, although the Minister had drawn attention
to some unease on the part of the Scottish Executive, particularly
with regard to eIdentity and eAuthentication, and a request for
clarification as to how the UK Government would involve the Executive
in taking forward domestic policy in the areas of eIdentity and
Authentication, the improvement of online access and interoperability
frameworks, his only comment thus far was that his Department
leads on the development of the new concept and the roll out of
any eIdentity solution design, and that Departments will roll
out their eIdentity solutions in accordance with that design.
6.13 With four months before Council Conclusions were due
to be adopted, we asked the Minister to write to us before the
Council meeting to outline how the questions raised by the Scottish
Executive had been addressed, and how the interests of all parts
of the United Kingdom would be safeguarded in the prospective
6.14 In the meantime we retained the document under scrutiny.
The Minister's letter of 24 March 2011
6.15 In his letter of 24 March 2011, the Minister responds
WORKING WITH THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS EIDENTITY AND
"In line with the Concordat between Cabinet Office and the
Scottish Executive, the Government will invite the Executive to
participate in the identity assurance programme design activity.
The invitation will be offered to the other administrations in
order to ensure comprehensive awareness and involvement in this
WORKING WITH THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS ONLINE ACCESS
"The Government is working with all of the devolved administrations
as to the development of their respective online services. The
Government is planning to bring together the relevant delivery
owners in the devolved administrations to share knowledge and
expertise in this area.
"Northern Ireland Executive's 'NI Direct' which has been
running for over a year has taken the Directgov operating model
to manage the site and reuses Directgov content on a daily basis
approximately 80% of NI Direct is Directgov content. Government
is currently working with the Executive to investigate how any
tools, forms or services can be repurposed or reused.
"The Scottish Executive is currently working on their third
iteration of an equivalent to Directgov. Directgov has been supporting
the Executive for the past 18 months during this development and
plans are in place for the Executive to utilise Directgov content
in the same manner as NI Direct. Representatives from Directgov
will attend the Scottish Executive's Digital Advisory Board this
month, a further step in ensuring continued cooperation in this
"The Welsh Assembly Office has been in recent discussions
with Directgov since the launch of their 'Digital Wales' Strategy.
The Government will continue this dialogue for the mutual benefit
for both parties to ensure the online service delivery is developed
in the best possible manner.
WORKING WITH THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS INTEROPERABILITY
"The devolved administrations are stakeholders in the development
of the national interoperability framework and are already embedded
in its governance process via the Chief Information Officer and
Chief Technology Officer Councils.
"The devolved administrations have been invited to join and
contribute to teams of subject matter experts working to define
the principles and standards specified within the framework. The
collaborative nature of the development of the Government's national
framework with representatives of the devolved administrations
ensures consistency, where it is required, in delivering eGovernment
systems for the benefit all UK citizens.
"The Government will invite the devolved administrations
to the relevant Europe-focussed expert group once the forthcoming
Government ICT Strategy is published. Within this new strategic
framework, the Government will ensure the devolved administrations
are kept informed, and in particular, taking the objectives of
the European eGovernment Action Plan forward. Until then, the
Government will continue to use existing channels to engage with
the devolved administrations.
SAFEGUARDING ALL INTERESTS IN THE CONCLUSIONS
"Throughout the negotiations on the draft text of the Conclusions,
the Government has consulted relevant delivery owners to ensure
all UK interests are safeguarded. As the drafting processes enters
the final stages, the Government is presently satisfied that there
are no outstanding issues and that the actions for which Member
State[s] are invited to cooperate on will work within the overall
direction of eGovernment in the UK."
6.16 We are grateful to the Minister for this further information,
which provides the necessary reassurances about the involvement
of the devolved administrations in this process and the nature
of the upcoming Telecoms Council Conclusions.
6.17 We now clear the document.
31 See http://ec.europa.eu/eu2020/pdf/COMPLET%20EN%20BARROSO%20%20%20007%20-%20Europe%202020%20-%20EN%20version.pdf
for details. Back
See (31638) 9981/10: HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 28 (8 September
eGovernment Action Plan 2006; for full information, see http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/egovernment/library/index_en.htm.
for the text of the Declaration. This built on the previous bi-annual
Ministerial meetings of Brussels in 2001, Como in 2003, Manchester
in 2005 and Lisbon in 2007. See http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/egovernment/library
for further information. Back
Which we consider at chapter 7 of this Report. Back
See headnote: HC 428-xiv (2010-11), chapter 4 (26 January 2011). Back