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

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.

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TOPICS: Government, EU
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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.

READ THIS: Is Poland finally getting out of the broadband slow lane?

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.

READ THIS: Poland's great paywall gamble kicks off

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

Michiel van Blommestein

About Michiel van Blommestein

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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  • Live in poland. Nothing shocking there.

    Once our ZUS (responsible for mandatory social insurance, retirement pensions, etc.) needed new software, but miscalculated. They paid 1 000 000 zł extra just because they needed to secure maintenance for one year for old software. (Pensions for more than 1000 people :| )

    Or funny case of institution supervising public orders, who released set of guidelines explaining law in that matter. One of (sane) requirements is to order functionality not applications. So any app providing functionality is good. The same for computers. Order must list requirements for performance (including compatibility with current stuff if needed), but not specific configurations taken from advertisements.
    All good and well, till you read "example" of "good" requirement, which listed "Windows 7" and "6 USB ports", and other stuff suggesting that it was just specification of particular computer.
    (Should be "Win 7 or compatible", and "at least 6 USB ports")

    And biggest blunder ever. Order from 2010 for 20k FLOPPY DISKS. (Ofc for ZUS) Nothing else would do.
    przemoli
    • Live in Poland too ;-)

      And I have to say, it didn't surprise me either. When they launched their plans at the start of the year, it already oozed this feeling they were setting the bar way too high.

      It's not impossible though. Lithuania for example has a quite extensive e-government scheme and healthcare database.

      Poland has enough skilled people within its borders. But for now, most of these agencies are still being run by people who ran them in the 1980's. The Polish bureaucracy, unfortunately, has too many vested interests. Let's be honest: paper pushing provides for extra jobs, which can be handed out to relatives, allies and people you want to owe you a favour ;-)
      mvanblom