Many countries failing to hit EU E-government targets

Although the EU predicts a fully operational E-government system by 2050, many countries have so far failed to hit targets.

Europe will have fully interoperable and transparent E-government by 2050, according to EU officials. This future government will blur the lines between us as individuals and how we interact with officialdom.

Governments will poll us about shaping policy and voting will be done through our televisions. All interactions that have traditionally taken place physically with government will disappear. Telemedicine and technology-based state education will be as natural as electronic tax returns and online banking are today. The same will apply to voting, discussions with other citizens and having your say in parliament.

Anti-Big Government tech evangelists such as US thinker Tim O’Reilly see the State being whittled down, replaced by continually self-improving feedback loops of data. O’Reilly’s ideas, which are gaining traction here, envisage all government services and programmes being monitored – from easing traffic on motorways to how well policies are performing. The word cybernetics, after all, means “the science of governance”.

The reality is that Europe’s governments have failed to meet those EU targets already. Europeans are already meant to be able to see official data about themselves online. Involving the public in decision making is already meant to have happened. Digital services enabling European citizens to study, work, live and receive healthcare anywhere in Europe are meant to be in place next year.

Vasilis Koulolias, director of digital government developer eGovlab, says: “Four years into the five-year E-government action plan, e-services still suffer from several gaps in user-centricity, transparency and single market mobility – making interoperable services available to citizens in other states.”

Koulolias argues that Europe making official datasets available to business would be hugely beneficial to the EU economy. “Savvy businesses are using public data to predict consumer behaviour, segment marketing campaigns, improve efficiency, even rate retirement plans,” he says.

What role business plays in digital government is contentious. Some E-government experts argue that the UK government’s history of awarding big IT contracts to large tech companies is the reason why the derelict hulks of big IT projects litter the landscape such as the National Programme for IT in the NHS, which was abandoned in 2011 and cost the taxpayer around £10 billion.

The government has reversed its strategy and now awards IT contracts to smaller, more agile software developers, opening up the market to hundreds of SMEs. Big Tech has hit back, pointing out that some of these small developers will be out of business when things go wrong. Better stick to Big Tech firms that you can be assured will still be around, Tim Gregory, UK president of tech giant CGI Group, has warned.

However E-government worldwide represents a tremendous business opportunity for companies once governments open up their data to whoever wants to use it. McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the use of open data could add $3 trillion (£1.8 trillion) in value to the global economy. Savvy businesses are using public data to predict consumer behaviour, shape marketing campaigns, developing life-saving medicine and spot gaps in the market for new goods and services.

Digital government will be the way most of us interact with the authorities going forward. E-government is the future face of government.