Corruption and vendor lock-in fears set back Poland's e-gov plan by years

Summary:The e-Poland project, intended to allow the country's citizens to do business with the government online, now won't go ahead til 2015 at the earliest.

Poland is to start an ambitious e-government project from scratch after corruption marred the call for bids and the requirements of the IT systems underpinning it had to be rethought.

Polish newspaper GazetaWyborcza reported on Monday that a push to digitise key local government services will instead be delayed by two years, meaning Poles will have to wait until at least the start of 2015 before they can access the services online.

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The whole idea of what the newspaper calls 'e-Poland' is that Poles will be able to conduct business with local government over the internet, instead of having to deal with civil servants sitting behind counters at city hall — for example, individuals would be able to request ID cards online.

In a country where carrying an ID card is mandatory, online registrations would put an end to the processing of ID cards being tied to a particular municipality. Digitising ID card registrations would save tens of millions of Euros over a five-year period, according to the Polish government.

The modernisation would also mean that the Polish government can do away with anachronistic citizen registration laws that stem from communist times — especially the widely despised laws that enforce registration within a municipality. Even tourists are, officially, required to register with the local government, and the registration process is not only mandatory but riddled with red tape.

Delays

The e-Poland project was meant to kick off at the end of this year, with citizens able to opt in to use the online services. Scrapping old-fashioned paper-pushing altogether was planned for the start of 2014. However, Roman Dmowski, the vice-minister of internal affairs, told Gazeta that the whole scheme has experienced severe problems.

Among them were issues that stem from the procurement processes of two key government IT systems. After irregularities were found in the call for bids for the systems, the Polish anti-corruption agency CBA now investigates virtually all calls for bids that have to do with digitisation projects — which in turn has caused delays to the rollout of e-Poland.

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Another problem is that the ministry decided to redraft the requirements of some e-Poland projects, Dmowski said, over concerns of vendor lock-in, with local authorities having to go cap in hand to the original vendors for small changes to certain parts of the system.

"For us that is unacceptable in the long term," Dmowski says. "In its new form, systems will be using neutral technology, which means that each system will be built by multiple parties so none of them can monopolise it."

Topics: Government, EU

About

Michiel van Blommestein is a Dutch journalist who has been living in Poland since 2010. He worked as a technology journalist in the Netherlands before moving to Poland to work as a regular correspondent for various news outlets. He still loves the bits and bytes though.

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