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Final Declaration

Modernising local and regional public service delivery in the framework of eEurope 2005

Over 300 local and regional government politicians and experts from 22 countries met at the EISCO 2003 Conference in Aalborg, Denmark (November 19th - 21st 2003) to exchange ideas on how to promote integrated public services in the networking society at local and regional level in the context of eEurope2005. 

The conference was hosted by the City of Aalborg and the County of Nord Jutland and organised by the ELANET (CEMR) network in close cooperation with eris@ and TeleCities.

eGovernment, meaning the use of information and communication technologies in public administrations, combined with organisational change and new skills in order to improve public services and democratic processes and strengthen support to public policies, has a very important role to play in the modernisation of the public sector and ongoing development. The best practice cases discussed at EISCO made clear to the participants that eGovernment is a long-term process that requires careful planning and significant resources. 

The Conference welcomed the communication on eGovernment, of the European Commission, and its objectives. The use of new online channels can significantly increase the productivity of the public government. However, when the only channel online may consist in focused services for specific user groups, it is important to bear in mind that customers of local and regional administrations must have equal opportunities, without fearing exclusion due to the progress of the information society. Local and Regional administrations should be aware of this danger and take action whenever needed to ensure the full exercise of this democratic right. 

In this context, it was underlined that services at local and regional level will continue, for the most part, to be delivered through physical contacts in which the new technologies are a supporting infrastructure. The objective of modernising public service delivery calls for an interoperable infrastructure based on shared standards that allows integration of different self-service technologies and traditional service channels in a joint front office. 

Basic considerations

The conference discussions were held in several parallel sessions covering the various priorities of local and regional action. The debate focused on some key issues and draw the following conclusions: 

a) collaborative services will only succeed if citizens are involved, if a significant reengineering process takes place in the public administrations to provide innovative and attractive services, and if there is a learning and monitoring process to support them; 

b) a significant gap is appearing between frontrunners and those lagging behind. There is a risk that this might damage the development of integrated services. National and European strategies should address this issue urgently to enable equitable development in all parts of government, in all regions and in all areas. Some groundbreaking experiences are now available in projects at the local level; 

c) implementation of the Lisbon strategy and free movement of citizens will require integrated pan-European public services. These services will rely for the most part on collaborative delivery at local and regional level to address the needs of the citizens; 

d) building of eServices will take a long time. The main challenge is to have a common framework, as it begins to be established at European level, to guarantee interoperability, critical mass and economies of scale. This process must be widely promoted and supported by all levels of administrations and the private sector; 

e) open and transparent local and regional government is a prerequisite of local democracy. The technology offers an exciting opportunity for the citizens to control and have ownership of the personal information managed by administrations and to receive personalised services. In this regard, security and privacy are important quality indicators of public service delivery and must be taken into account in eGovernment planning; 

f) an important priority is to help managers and staff to understand the potentials of eGovernment. Elected officials and top management of administrations should clearly commit themselves to make it happen; 

g) currently there is too little emphasis on the importance of measuring results at local and regional level. This is a major obstacle to improvement that administrations should immediately face; 

h) attention should be paid to the reduction of unnecessary rules and regulations that make the modernisation process slow and complicated; 

i) there is the need to clarify and set open standards for services and systems, ensuring their accessibility through strategies such as open source software development. This is required urgently to better focus the modernisation of public administrations and enable ICT suppliers to provide standardised products for integrated services. The issue should be analysed carefully both at European and national level; 

j) the methodology being implemented by the PRELUDE project to boost innovation at local and regional level through the creation of European clusters for innovation provides a good model for public-private partnership initiatives.

 An Integrated Pattern for Financing the European Information Society

 The financial tools for the future development of the digital technologies and e-government in the local administration in Europe, are actually based upon four main axes: IST programme, Structural Funds, European Investment Bank financing and National Funds. 

A transparent framework is considered more and more urgent as a tool to optimise the different approaches and ensure appropriate governance. 

The Conference learned about the “L2L” initiative launched by the European Investment Bank to support innovation in the coming years with a 20 billion euros credit line. These resources are particularly important at a time when local and regional governments are being asked to do more with less money. It was recommended that a comprehensive promotion plan should be put in place at European level, in order to give the chance to all potential customers, especially small and medium public and private organisations, to make use of this opportunity. 

The IST programme is envisaged as a main catalyst to stimulate R&D and build prototypes, piloting new solutions and services for eEurope. EIB funds and structural funds can instead then support deployment of these prototypes and other local and regional pilot projects. Structural funds should continue to be the main financial resource to develop the Information Society and favour local development in less advanced  Regions, especially within the new Member States. The funds provided by the national governments should prioritise integrated solutions, networking services and ensure that pan-European services are adequately integrated in the mainstream. 

A Brokerage for Best Practice’ Reuse 

The widespread implementation of eEurope priorities in all fields needs to put special emphasis on the reuse of applications and services that have been deployed successfully. So far, this process does not really exist, although attempts have been made at national and European level. 

The Conference recommended the creation of a brokerage system to meet this objective, especially regarding applications supporting the modernisation of small and medium public and private organisations. 

Brokerage would become a powerful instrument to implement an e-placement methodology for re-use of best practices and create new e-partnerships, ultimately optimising integration among funding possibilities at all levels. 

EU enlargement. 

The European Union is growing from 15 to 25 countries. A new reality is being formed that requires adequate policies and initiatives from Local and Regional administrations and their networks. 

The Conference agreed on the need to set up a method of working and specific targets in this regard, asking the European networks that have organised this Conference to lead this challenging process that should culminate in the next EISCO conference, that will take place in Cracow (Poland) in June 2005. 

A Constituency for eGovernment

 A strategic, pan-European constituency for eGovernment is developing across Europe, involving local and regional administrations. The joint work of Elanet, eris@ and TeleCities is leading the way. This work must continue and receive adequate acknowledgment and support from all European institutions. 

Digital Solidarity through Local Government Initiative

The promotion of digital solidarity among administrations is one of the ways to bridge the digital divide between industrialised and developing countries. Local government experiences now coming into maturity throughout Europe will be an important source of e-Government empowerment models, based on eCitizen rights and participation, for less developed countries. 

For that reason, looking towards the World Summit on Information Society in Genève early next year and to the Cities’ gathering in Lyon, next month, the Conference invited the administrations to get involved in their exchange of experience, sharing of best practices and initiatives, together with potential partners from outside of the European Union, to support the development of on-line services for the citizens of local administration in developing countries.

 Open Source Software to integrate services and stimulate re-use of good practices 

Open source is an important tool to employ, especially in the field of e-government. The availability of open source software and of open standards enhance the position of local governments on the software market. 

The Three Roses constituency process, led by the European networks addressing local and regional needs, draws on FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software). The aim is to stimulate research, technology and innovation using FLOSS as a driver to implement pilot projects in the areas of eGovernment and development of local economies, as well as to facilitate the reuse of applications and public-private partnerships involving hi-tech SMEs and the open source ICT industry. Development of the European FLOSS community and development of open source software applications would benefit from the creation of an institutional infrastructure (offering, for example, 3rd party certification, reference site directory and others) in order to support accelerated maturity. 

World Summit on the Information Society 

The participants invited the chair of the Conference to bring the conclusions of EISCO 2003 to the Cities’ summit in Lyon aiming at a common platform for the World summit and to promote the outcomes of the Conference through the institutional channels of the organisations that have participated.

Declaration EISCO 2003
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