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All EU countries sign up to implement digital-by-default services

Declaration reaffirms commitment to bring public sector services into the digital age and improve citizens’ interaction with government

All European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states have signed an eGovernment declaration, promising to champion digital public services across the continent.

The countries’ ministers responsible for digital government made the commitment at a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia today (6 October) during the eGovernment Ministerial Conference.

The declaration states that digital transformation “can strengthen the trust in government that is necessary for policies to have effect: by increasing the transparency, responsiveness, reliability and integrity of public governance”, and makes a promise to ensure that digital-by-default services, inclusiveness and accessibility are found in all government services.

The document follows the previous declaration, signed in Malmo, Sweden, in 2009, and the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020.

It also calls on the European Commission and other EU institutions to “adopt the digital-by-default principle and commitments” similar to the “user-centricity principles for design and delivery of digital public services for all service interactions with EU institutions – by 2019”.

The declaration also includes plans to increase digital skills among the public and businesses, to ensure they are better equipped to interact digitally with government. This also aims to ensure “better digital accessibility of public services and information for all citizens and businesses, including by improving the accessibility of public administration websites and mobile apps”.

At the Tallinn Digital Summit last week, Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas said in his conclusions paper that completing the Digital Single Market (DSM) by 2018 “is an important first step” in making the EU the home for enterprises and innovators in a digital age.

The declaration document said that getting eGovernment services right is important for the development of both the data economy and the DSM, especially for ensuring the “secure and free movement of data as an enabler for digital innovation in Europe and for reducing the costs of, and barriers to, seamless functioning of the Single Market. “

Identity verification

One of the key commitments includes speeding up preparations to implement the regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS) which covers the exchange of identities between public sector organisations. The idea is that people who have identified themselves to one part of government in one country should then be covered by that when using services in another part of government, or another EU country.

The declaration said member countries will “work to make our digital public services secure and properly identifiable by using the eIDAS framework for qualified electronic trust services, including by advancing the take-up of qualified website authentication certificates and qualified electronic seals”.

In the UK, the Government Digital Service (GDS) advertised for a senior development team to support its identity assurance platform Gov.uk Verify’s eIDAS compliance work in May this year, which will be focused on interoperability and “working to consume identities from Europe, and potentially allow re-use of Verify identities in Europe”.  

Security and privacy

The declaration also promised to ensure that information security and privacy are taken into consideration when designing public services and implementing government IT systems.

It said all member states will also “co-ordinate, exchange and collaborate more with each other to increase our strategic, operational, research and development capacity in the area of cyber security”, particularly when it comes to implement the Network and Information Security (NIS) directive that aims to increase the security of network and information systems across the EU.

The Estonian prime minister also said last week that Europe should become a leader in cyber security by 2025 and called for a common approach to the matter.

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“We must improve out national and joint preparedness, crisis management capabilities as well as incident reporting and analysis,” he said.

“Together with the private sector, we should ensure the highest level of resilience in digital infrastructures, industries and services to create a competitive advantage and attract investments. Investing in secure and novel technologies, such as blockhain and quantum computing, can contribute to defending all sectors of the European economy.”

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