Kroes calls for joined-up e-government

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has urged governments to develop interoperable public-sector services, to encourage European businesses

The current global economic crisis has heightened the need for interoperable European public-sector digital services, according to European digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Neelie Kroes

European commissioner Neelie Kroes has called for a joined-up approach to e-government in Europe. Photo credit: Neelie Kroes/Flickr

Public-sector digital programmes need to be interoperable to encourage cross-border business, Kroes said in a speech on Thursday.

"For me the [economic] crisis underlines all the more the need to reform," said Kroes. "We should not shy away from, but actively seek out, new market opportunities. We should not be scared of, but embrace the possibilities of open data and joined-up service delivery."

E-government interoperability could bring new market opportunities for the private sector, Commission digital agenda spokesman Ryan Heath told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"This is about more people getting more market opportunities," said Heath. "We need the ideas and the input of the private sector."

The calls for compatible e-government services stem from the European Union eGovernment Action Plan, put forward in 2006. The plan, which the European Commission adopted last year, said national governments should make greater use of IT to provide services.

Borderless schemes

Heath said that the Commission is showcasing five online public-service pilot schemes as part of a conference called 'Borderless eGovernment Services for Europeans' this week.

One of the schemes is a Europe-wide electronic identification project called Stork. The project, which covers cross-border authentication, safe online chat for children, student mobility, address changes, document delivery and Commission system integration, is due to finish at the end of 2011, when it will be superseded by Stork 2.0.

The Commission said in a statement that e-procurement could save government and businesses "hundreds of billions of euros each year". The Scottish government is involved in a European e-procurement pilot project called Peppol.

The UK is involved in two more of the projects. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is involved in the Spocs project, which intends to make cross-border business administration easier. The project aims to overcome difficulties associated with licence and permit applications from one European country to another, by providing an online 'single-point-of-contact' for administrative functions.

The UK Department of Health (DoH) is involved in the epSOS project, a European electronic healthcare record interoperability project. The DoH has attracted criticism from a number of government bodies over its handling of UK electronic patient record contracts.

The Commission-endorsed e-Codex project, which will run until December 2013, aims to develop legal information exchange processes between European countries including France, Germany and Greece.

The UK government is involved in creating a single government website for citizen interactions. The Cabinet Office stopped monitoring feedback on the pilot project in August, with an admission that it had no clear picture of who might use a single government website.

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