Last Friday I was a panelist at Tecnimap 2010, a Spanish government-focused conference that takes place every two years and was organized in beautiful Zaragoza this time.
The session was about the Malmo Ministerial Declaration that was signed last November by ministers in EU member states to agree about a number of common objectives (see previous post). The declaration addresses both the objective of empowering citizens and business by creating more user-driven services and increasing transparency, and the more traditional objective of improving efficiency and effectiveness of services, with particular reference to cross-border ones. The former is way more innovative and in line with recent trends on government 2.0 in other regions (such as North America and Australia).
The session covered some of the projects that the European Commission is funding to establish or integrate basic components of a European e-Government interoperability scheme:
- PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement On Line), dealing with common eProcurement solutions,
- STORK dealing with cross-recognition of electronic identities; and
- SPOCS (Simple Procedures Online for Cross-border Services), focused on solutions that support the European Services Directive (which facilitates the establishment of businesses across EU borders).
In addition, some panelists mentioned the important role of the European Interoperability Framework, which is meant to support the interoperability of government data, applications and processes across EU borders.
Whereas all these projects seem to be doing the right things, I wonder whether they are what is really needed to meet not only citizens’ but also member states’ priorities:
- PEPPOL focuses on cross-border procurement, but I doubt that’s a priority while every economy struggles and public money is expected to have demonstrable local benefits. Also, it does not look into how to innovate the cumbersome procurement process and make it more transparent, an area where other regions are exploring the benefits of social media (more here).
- SPOCS seems to ignore that entrepreneurs in Europe may want to build their own version of a point of single contact, leveraging collective intelligence about the challenges and opportunities of cross-border operations rather than relying on official government information (more here).
- STORK pursues cross recognition of electronic identities assuming that they will have a wide uptake outside their primary application area (i.e. public safety), which is unlikely (more here).
I will expand each of these point in separate blog posts, but my general assessment is that, while these projects are important to both implement European policies and enhance collaboration between member states, they need to be put into a broader context in order to contribute to the first and most innovative objective of the ministerial declaration
How much effort should be put and maintained on these projects is not up to me to judge, but I would welcome a reflection by some or most of the EU member states about how these resources can be more effectively utilized to really address empowerment and user-driven services..
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Though I agree that PEPPOL is definitely not a priority – wouldn’t be for me at least – it is 100% in line of the idea of a single market within European boundaries at all levels, including public procurement. To me, this is a crystal clear example that the European Union is more about markets than about social development and progress, where governments in Europe, as you state, still have a strong role and impact (the local benefits you mentioned).
I don’t think I agree that much with you about STORK. I believe digital identity is a priority everywhere. And in a space where mobility is fostered by all means – i.e. the European Union – this is a must. Two examples can be student mobility or criminal (data) “mobility”: both of them are actually moving around Europe in important numbers and would benefit from a common ID.
@Ismael – thanks for your comments. I’ve just published a post on PEPPOL and the ones on SPOCS and STORK will follow soon. I am unconvinced that, besides public safety (and indeed law enforcement) there is much need. Students may wish to use different forms of identity already at hand (mobile phones, credit and debit cards and – why not – social networking profiles). Cross recognition of identoties goes well beyond national IDs. In fact – as I will mention – countries having multiple eIDs (at regional and national level) already have the problem within their borders.
I will rewrite my former statement on eIDs: it would be my will – at the practical level as a citizen and at the theoretical level as a researcher – that a single, pan-European ID would emerge and substitute all other (national or sub-national) IDs.
Amongst many other reasons, I think interoperability and data sharing (two sides of the same coin) would highly benefit from such an approach.
And while STORK might not be exactly about that, it is in my opinion a first step towards it.