Earlier today I got an email from the epractice.eu initiative – which publicizes e-government progress and best practices in the European Union – about a new community they have put together, named PIKE.
Here is its description:
The PIKE community at ePractice.eu is an initiative, running in parallel to the PIKE Fast Track network, funded as a Capitalization project by INTERREG IVC. Concurring with the objectives of the PIKE Fast Track network, the Pike online community intends to improve regional and local Innovation & Knowledge Economy policies through the exchange, sharing and transfer of eGovernment and Wireless Broadband good practices, ultimately aiming towards the integration of these good practices into the Convergence and Regional Competitiveness and Employment policies of all the participating regions. Therefore, this community aspires to provide a forum for all the regional, local and national eGovernment and wireless broadband practitioners in Europe to meet and share their expertise, good practices and knowledge, to request and provide support. The PIKE community is open to practitioners from European administrations, public and private organisations and third level education and research sectors.
I have to confess that I did not know about the PIKE project (PIKE stands for Promoting Innovation and the Knowledge Economy). So I visited their web site and found out that the aim is indeed
to improve regional and local Innovation & Knowledge Economy policies through the exchange, sharing and transfer of eGovernment and Wireless Broadband good practices, and through the integration of these good practices into the Convergence and Regional Competitiveness and Employment policies of all the participating regions.
Participants are mostly local authorities from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain (ironically, all countries belonging to the so-called PIIGS groups of financially troubled members of the euro) plus UK,Sweden, Bulgaria, Czech Republic.
Although I’m all for good practice exchange, what surprises me is the fact that “e-government” is associated to “wireless broadband”, as if practitioners in those two areas were the same or had to have a particularly strong link with each other.
In my humble opinion, wireless braodband is more an infrastructure consideration for local authorities: should they provide wireless broadband access? should they entirely or partially subsidize it? how should that be charged to citizens, businesses, tourists? and so on.
E-government is about government service delivery and operations. If there is a case to put it in the same project with wireless broadband, then why not other infrastructures, such as the electrical grid or the water network? Incidentally, whereas wireless broadband is just a means to support (amongst other things) e-gov services, the latter are far more interesting from an e-government perspective, since technology can play a key role to manage them more effectively and efficiently (see my earlier post on government 3.0).
After more than a decade of confused investments in e-government, information society, knowledge society, and so forth, I would have thought that the EU would help its member states better focus their efforts and good practice exchanges. Unfortunately, as browsing through other parts of epractice.eu clearly shows, it appears this is not the case.
Then why are we surprised if Europe lags behind in so many areas?