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Final Declaration

EISCO 2010 Declaration Teaming up for local eGovernment Citizen involvement and quality of services

This 8th EISCO 2010 marked an important step in the implementation of the Digital Local Agenda (DLA). Politicians, experts, and administrators assessed the progress made so far and analysed the new context to build a vision for the coming years: our way into the web. 2.0 Society using the DLA as the main instrument.

The latest information and communication technology allows more interaction between the administration, the citizens and the businesses and impacts on the decision making process. Public services can be organised more efficiently, effectively and – in cooperation with the users – can better serve the needs of the people.

The development and use of ICT has created new possibilities, but also challenges, for local and regional authorities. ICT can help to strengthen local democracy and the involvement of citizens in political decision making. It can also help to modernise and restructure the public sector and to develop better and more effective services to citizens and businesses. At the same time ICT can be an important tool for regional development, especially in rural areas.

The European context

The work of local and regional authorities on eGovernment must be seen in a wider context: At European level, the EU ministers responsible for eGovernment adopted, at their conference on 18 November 2009, the Malmö Declaration on eGovernment, and at the same conference, hundreds of experts on eGovernment had made an open government statement. There are further recent eGovernment initiatives such as the European Digital Agenda which the European Commission launched as part of the EU 2020 Strategy on 18 May 2010. The European Digital Agenda and the Local Digital Agenda follow the same direction and thus are complementary. It is important now that concrete actions follow to achieve the objectives. The implementation needs to go hand in hand, also requiring further actions at national and regional level to comply with these two Agendas.

Digital Local Agenda

The development of Information Society and eGovernment at local and regional level requires a strategic approach. In order to facilitate this process, the European organizations and networks for local and regional authorities adopted in 2005 the Digital Local Agenda, which aims at:

  • facilitating the take-up of e-government by local authorities
  • promoting sustainable modernisation processes based on intensive use of ICT
  • improving public services supported by strong back offices, innovative digital networks and better digital literacy in public administrations
  • increasing cooperation between national, regional and local public administrations, including across Europe

New Opportunities

On the one hand, the emergence of web 2.0 society (which is defined by a different way of communication and interaction and thus results in changes of the society) and the use of ICT for eGovernment and eServices provides great potential and opportunities. ICT eases the access to information and opens up new possibilities to the citizens to get involved in the local life.

New types of services emerge in the information society and many services are accessible everywhere and at any time. With the help of ICT, public services can not only be organised, targeted and managed more efficiently, but can also be tailored to specific needs of the individual citizen. Furthermore, the use of ICT can reduce the use of natural resources considerably and contribute to a greener society.

New Challenges

On the other hand, new challenges arise together with these opportunities:

Striving for eInclusion is a crucial and ongoing, but difficult task.

Another related and fundamental challenge is the enhancement of democratic participation of all groups of citizens. ICT is an obvious tool to increase involvement and participation. At the same time it can exclude citizens without access and knowledge. Empowerment of citizens’ participation, particularly excluded groups, through development of skills and capacity building is thus an important task for local and regional authorities.

Not only citizens have to acquire digital literacy, as the eCapacities and eSkills of employees in local and regional authorities are essential in a web 2.0 society. Civil servants' ICT-competence is crucial for the development of a modern digital administration and for achieving the goals stipulated in EU and national eGovernment plans. Local and regional authorities, supported by the national government, need to provide internal or external training courses at the relevant level.

The potential of ICT can only unfold if processes and organisation of local and regional government are changed fundamentally. Analysing manual and electronic work processes is one way of anticipating changes to be implemented in the organisation.

However, in addition to local government there are many other organisations, third sector agencies, groups and individuals who contribute to citizen services and well being and it is becoming ever more important to understand who is involved and how they relate to each other in order to build capacity, avoid waste and provide services which are better joined up and tailored to the needs of the individual.

The development of strategic partnerships with greater insight into the profile, context and circumstance of their citizens, businesses and localities enables business improvement, more effective service delivery and efficient resource management.

Without security and privacy issues being constantly addressed, the take up of eServices will not improve considerably, and more importantly, a safe and secure eSociety cannot be achieved. It is important that local and regional authorities carry out risk analyses to uncover potential security gaps and prepare procedures which ensure that sensitive information is not accessed or inappropriately obtained by unauthorized persons.

The lack of interoperability and of coordination between government levels (vertically) and sectors (horizontally) is one of the biggest obstacles to effective eGovernment. Interoperability is required to provide user friendly electronic self service solutions to the public and the business sector. Ensuring seamless transfer of data between different systems will also significantly increase the efficiency of public sector case management and ensure better data quality. Development of standards for data and quality plus common ICTarchitecture and specifications for systems, based on open standards are important prerequisites for interoperability between front and back office systems and between Government sectors and different levels of government.

Manual on Implementing Strategies for Local and Regional eGovernment

These opportunities and strategic challenges for local and public administrations show the importance of launching Digital Local Agenda processes across all of Europe.

The implementation of the Digital Local Agenda depends on strategic action plans. Local and regional authorities have to develop strategic ICT plans with politically set goals and to adapt them continuously to reflect technological developments and other changes in society. National associations of local and regional authorities are important intermediaries in providing guidance for municipalities and regions on how to create strategic ICT-plans based on the DLA. To support associations of local and regional authorities in this task, CEMR has drafted a manual on Implementing Strategies for Local and Regional eGovernment which was launched at the conference.

ELANET-CP

The new ELANET community of practice (ELANET-CP) launched at this EISCO, is another concrete initiative to put the DLA into action. In 1996 ELANET was set up as an informal network of institutions and organisations involved in helping local and regional government to meet the challenges of e-government and to identify the requirements and develop concepts for an inclusive information society. ELANET will now be transformed into a Community of Practice (CP) of eGovernment experts and practitioners exploring all aspects of the social web to engage with a wider audience and membership. ELANET-CP aims at sharing experience and knowledge across public, private and third sector in Europe especially in relationship to further work on implementing the DLA.

The Regional dimension

The Digital Local Agenda is already an on-going process in several regions of Europe where pilot actions are being launched. The CEMSDI European project co-financed by the European Commission will allow civil servants from small and medium sized local governments to use the Digital Local Agenda as an instrument to empower them in the use of ICT to modernize their own organizations and substantially to improve locally delivered services. It will also be an opportunity to establish partnerships with other local service providers and to engage citizens in the process. The idea is to evolve from these pilots, in five countries, the test-bed for future and sustainable initiatives in other European regions. 

The other mainstream initiative that the conference supports is the creation of a network of intermediaries able to exchange experiences and to establish policies and actions for inclusive eGovernment that benefit citizens pertaining to socially disadvantaged groups that are excluded from the use of eGovernment services. Many initiatives in this regard already exist but are fragmented and not integrated in a common framework, therefore one of the main goals of the ADD ME! campaign, that this inclusive eGovernment project has put forward, is to identify, share and disseminate this valuable experience and best practice through a collaborative and sustainable network. 

Comments and Recommendations

At the EISCO conference, the following comments and recommendations were expressed: 

  • The European Digital Agenda and the Local Digital Agenda need to complement each other; national strategies and initiatives should be in line with these Agendas. 
  • Horizontal and vertical cooperation of all actors is necessary. 
  • Better cooperation can help to avoid duplication of efforts and costs at different administrative levels. 
  • Government of the future must be flexible, open and able to work in a network Structure. 
  • A new way of working and negotiation among various government actors is required. 
  • Citizens need to be in the centre of the objective: an ‘internet of citizens instead of an internet of things. 
  • Tools should be developed to identify the citizens’ and businesses needs and how they can be met. 
  • Web 2.0 connects people to people – it is not a technology. 
  • The objective should be a sustainable (long-term, resource efficient, socially inclusive) and integrated solution. 
  • The European institutions and national governments must acknowledge the crucial role of local and regional authorities in the development of eGovernment and an inclusive web2.0 society. 
  • Local and regional authorities should be involved in the drafting of national and European digital agendas as equal partners and no longer be considered only as those who must implement. 
  • Exchange of experience and best practices at European level are very useful and help to initiate innovative and creative solutions. 

Financial support, in particular from the European Structural Funds (e.g. Social Funds for qualification, e-literacy training; Regional Development Fund, rural development funds for infrastructure, broadband) should be provided for local and regional initiatives.

Declaration EISCO 2010
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