OCT 12 2012

Mission eGov globalization impeded by the Internet

by in E-Government Leave a comment

In precisely the field where state borders dissipate – the Internet – online state government services (eGov) face the highest obstacles.

This may be one of the reasons why electronic administrative processes still have such large potential and why they are still so costly for everyone involved. The EU Services Directive establishes guidelines and   binding standards. However, the practical implementation already fails at the grassroots level.

The simplest question, ”Who is my customer?“, can be answered neither from a European nor from a global perspective. To take an actual example: a global, or at least EU wide actor, wishes to communicate with the EU Member States in a binding fashion. In most business processes, this requires a unique electronic identity and a signature.

However, each country has its own system, thus effectively excluding nationals from one country from accessing the system in another country. Even the most recent implementation in this context, De-Mail (the new German legally-binding mail system, link in German language), is not available to persons without a German address.

The EU has recognized the problem, but the proposal put forward by the European Commission  increases the complexity and does not meet with any significant approval in the Member States.

Due to severe security concerns raised by nearly every actor involved, it is also not possible for states to agree on the recognition of other state systems. Consequently, there is almost no recognition (see comment from the German Bundesnetzagentur, Link in German language) in place

Business companies are more flexible:

  1. Shopping at Amazon (and in many other online shops):
    When shopping online I register with my user name and password from anywhere in the world, enter my credit card data and carry out a legally binding business transaction. The security of the transaction is taken for granted.
  2. Secure collaboration:
    Using Folio Cloud as an example: after registering with a German ID I save my documents in the Cloud; my business partners can access them after registering with SuisseID or the Austrian mobile phone signature (Handy-Signatur); thus the electronic identities are identifiable and traceable.

A provocative question:

When somebody registers with a personal ID in order to subsequently upload documents via an encrypted connection, where is the added value in adding a qualified electronic signature?

Naturally, the legal framework for organizations within the public administration is more complex. However, there could be substantial potential for simplification there as well.

The version of the German eGovG (eGov law) approved by the Cabinet does place the new personal ID and de-Mail on an equal footing with the qualified electronic signature in administrative proceedings. However, it is still not valid. On the other hand, three different possibilities in one country do place enormous cost pressure on the administration. In the best case scenario this could be financed by consolidation and reduction of the systems.

At any rate, in Austria consolidation is important and the focus of a current draft law.

Sometimes collaboration fails even before reaching the country borders, as the following Tweet on the topic of Open Government shows:  ̏In Germany cross-border collaboration strands already on the shores of departmental sovereignty“.

There are other issues too, such as data sovereignty and applicable laws. Folio Cloud also addresses this topic via the locations.

So there is quite a bit left to do for Europe to become competitive.

Placing increasing pressure on individual administrations is hence not productive before the legal and realistically implementable basis is in place!

But one thing is certain: without cross-national identity management and simplified international administrative processes, Europe is unlikely to escape the partly unjustified image of having an unwieldy administrative millstone around its neck.

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Related posts:

  1. From E-Government to Cloud-Government?
  2. Electronic identities – will they support or obstruct eGov?
  3. Separating the information from the medium – An inconvenient truth about e-government
  4. Data security, mobile access – self evident, but…
  5. Will eGovernment sell itself because of the Internet?

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