Estonia has the honor to hold its first presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 July 2017. One of our priorities during our presidency is to make strong progress on the development of digital Europe, especially on the issues around free movement of data in the Single Market – in all possible fields of policy and services. Europe must fully exploit the benefits of technological progress that can deliver continuous benefits for citizens, businesses and governments.
eGovernment has a central role in this regard. It can spur innovation and growth throughout the economy by offering a lead market and a platform for private services, while reducing red tape and bureaucracy. Digital solutions can greatly also contribute to strengthening the trust for governments, while making lives easier and more productive for all residents of Europe. One of the pillars of free movement of data in our view is to break down barriers (especially the cross-border ones) to access and reuse of data that lies in the hands of public sector.
Estonia has been building up a digital government and society for 20 years now and reap massive benefits from it: in increased efficiency in the economy, more capable public sector, growth dividends in ICT sector and beyond. Our country is sometimes called even e-Estonia, because most of everyday tasks can be carried out digitally, in public sector and beyond. These days, Estonian digital services are attracting users from all around the world through our groundbreaking e-Residency programme (http://e-resident.gov.ee).
Although eGovernment has been among the key European policy topics for more than 15 years, the progress has been too slow to match the speed and size of the challenge as well as potential. There is also significant variation in eGovernment performance across European countries, not to mention lags in digital take-up at EU level.
For these reasons, we have an ambition to convene the European e-government ministers to Tallinn, Estonia in October 2017 to agree and sign a Tallinn eGovernment declaration (Tallinn Declaration) to reinvigorate work in this area in Europe. We intend to agree the roadmap for next steps in e-Government front for both the national as well as EU levels. The political role of a ministerial declaration is to express the joint vision of EU ministers responsible for eGovernment and to stress their joint political commitment in achieving a set of key policy priorities. Our aim is to have a declaration with concrete actions and deadlines agreed, to be able to track progress and be clear about promises.
The declaration will be focused on progress in these areas, in particular:
- public services should be available digitally as the preferred option, while offering a suitable alternative for the citizens not willing or able to use them digitally
- citizens and businesses should be asked to submit any information to public administration only once, incl in cross-border transactions
- citizens and businesses can interact with public administrations with full trust and security
- public administrations should open up more to engage with stakeholders in both design and delivery as well as decision-making
- public services and IT systems should work interoperable across organisations and platforms
We will call upon European Commission to take this declaration as a basis when reviewing the current eGovernment Action Plan in spring 2018. Estonia will also take this declaration as basis to agreeing concrete and ambitious actions laying the foundation for further digital transformation beyond 2020, not just for immediate years.
In collaboration with Lisbon Council, we hope to bring to table out-of-the-box ideas and involve relevant experts more widely than from governmental circles to leverage collective intelligence for the road ahead. To ignite discussion, Lisbon Council has drafted a thought paper with initial ideas and directions – which we ask you kindly to comment on right away. The paper will provide a basis and food-for-thought for the declaration, even if it will not be exactly the final declaration itself.
We are appreciating Lisbon Council team’s hard work, effort and help on this context. And we do sincerely seek your ideas and inputs on what the Tallinn declaration should entail in your view – to build eGovernments in Europe in best possible way.
Let us know what you think on www.ideas4digitalgov.eu!