SMART ICT TECHNOLOGIES IN SUPPORT OFE-GOVERNMENT
COMENIUS UNIVERSITY OF BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA
FACULTY OF MANAGEMENT
E-EUROPE R&D CENTRE
Prof. Dusan Soltes
e-Europe R&D Centre,
Faculty of Management,
Comenius University of Bratislava
Smart ICT Technologies in Support of E-Government
The paper is dealing with some problems of the implementation of the EU strategies on e-Europe in the conditions of the EU new member states regarding the most important and crucial application area i.e. e-Government.
SMART ICT TECHNOLOGIES IN SUPPORT OF E-GOVERNMENT
Dusan SOLTES Faculty of Management, Comenius University,
Keywords: e-Europe, e-Government, G2G, G2C, G2B
Abstract. Since its inception by the Lisbon strategy 2000 on e-Europe strategy and then its continuation through i2010 strategy up to now with the Horizon 2020 in support of the Innovative Europe 2020, the applications of smart ICT in the EU has passed a rather complex and sometimes also a quite controversial development process . In general it has been hampered by several key factors like e.g. the original Lisbon strategy adopted in year 2000 has been adopted by then only 15 EU member states while very soon the EU has been enlarged by 15 (2004) and then by another 2 (2007) mostly less developed CEECs and recently last year by another one new member up to current EU 28. In the following parts of this paper we are dealing with the current status as achieved in the development of the future EU as the e-Europe as well as we are trying to find the ways and means how to accelerate the entire development in this respect within the selected ten sectors of the future e-Europe..
In spite of the above existing problems and weaknesses in the development of the e-Europe there has been gradually going an increase in funding for the R&D activities including research for the ICT and/or IST and related smart technologies programs from around 35 billion Euro for 6FP (2002-6) to 52 bil Euro for 7FP (2007-13). And now under the HORIZON 2020 it goes up to 70 billion Euro for years 2014-20. What by itself is a steadily growth in financial support to the EU R&D but it remains still only fraction of the funding going to the most controversial CAP – Common Agricultural Policy that gets about the same amounts or in other words almost the half of the EU annual budget but … not for 5-7 years as it is in case of the support to R&D but for annual subsidies to the EU farmers. However, in spite of these objective but also not so objective problems there has been achieved some evident progress regarding applications of smart ICT technologies for the needs of the future electronic Europe although there are still some gaps between the achievements of the “old” EU15 and the “new” EU12 and now also EU13. According to some key sectors the main results but also some problems as so far achieved and/or identified in the e-Europe development are as they are presented in the following parts of this paper. :
Selected application areas of the future e-Government as a part of the EU e-Europe strategy
In this part of the paper we are going to deal at least very briefly with some key application areas of the future e-Europe. Into these areas we have selected the following ten key application areas as follows:
– e-Invoicing and e-Procurement
– e-Content and e-Libraries
– e-Knowledge and e-skills
e-Government. As far as the development of the future e-Government as one of the key application areas of the future e-Europe is concerned, the main results and challenges in this problem area have been within the following main three government services and that being G2C, G2B, G2G. The G2C stands for the governmental services of the future e-Government to citizens. The G2B means the services of the future e-Government to and/or for businesses. and the G2G represents the governmental agendas and interactions between and among the various governmental agencies on the central as well as regional levels. In general we could state in this connection that even after the more than 14 years since the inception of the Lisbon strategy, the results are still mixed ones exactly as it has been stated yet in 2004 in the well known W. Kok’s mid-term evaluation report that later on has led to replacement of the Lisbon strategy by its less ambition version of i2010 and nowadays we have been looking forward in its current version till year 2020 under the HORIZON 2020 strategy adopted for years 2014-2020. As the main problems have been basically still the same ones i.e. that some fundamental technical preconditions have not yet been created like e.g. the e-Signature as the main access tool for becoming an authorized user for various e-Government applications. That we will deal in more details in the separate part of this paper. But even more negative aspect of the entire concept of e-Government has been still the fact that there were not existing sufficient numbers of e-Government applications and services not only for citizens but as well as for businesses and also for interactions between various governmental agencies, ministries, etc. It would be really desired to have more relevant applications after the more than decade long “implementations” of various strategies related to e-Europe. As far as the Government services to citizens are concerned we could state that only now some main preconditions are created e.g. in many especially new EU member states including our country of Slovakia. In this connection it is worth to mention that e.g. only now has been launched the system of e-ID as a replacement of the still utilized system of classical plastic ID cards. Only now with the new by a chip equipped e-ID it will be possible for citizens to identify themselves in various ways and means of e-communications with various governmental agencies. But again it will be needed to implement as soon as possible the governmental applications that will enable citizens to arrange their needs from the government in the modern e-communications regarding e.g. issuing new passports, driving certificates/permits, e-health or cadaster and other governmental services including e.g. also e-voting as a part of the e-Democracy, etc. The same also for various other e- applications regarding various permissions, authorizations, approvals, agendas that are integral part of the daily life of citizens who should have now an opportunity to arrange all those often bureaucratic demands without necessity to be running from an office to other offices, etc. For example only for the arrangement of a permission to build a new house it is estimated that it requires up to about 50 “signatures” of various governmental agencies what of course is also a source for a possible corruption, clientelism, favoritism, etc. All these and other negatives could be almost removed from the daily life if the particular contacts G2C would be carried out in the e-way of communications also for all other subjects not only citizens. At the moment most of data in this respect are collected mostly by individual governmental agencies rather than to be shared by various governmental agencies within the G2G from some common data storage facilities, etc.\
The same we could say also regarding the G2B as to open e.g. a new business even on the level of SME nowadays requires again various applications, permissions and authorizations from various governmental agencies. In the new modern e-G2B all these bureaucratic obstacles could be removed and the creation as well as operation of the modern e-businesses could be arranged through several steps within e-communication with the one-stop e-business service centers.
As for the G2G communications, the main task remains still the same as we have mentioned it above i.e. to remove lack of e-interactions between and among various governmental agencies. Especially it is needed to remove the kind of autonomy in collection, storage and utilization of various data being collected by the individual governmental agencies from citizens, businesses, etc.
e-Signature. This very important e-tool for carrying out any and/or all fundamental e-activities has not been still generally available across the e-EU in the form that would meet the general requirements of the EU common market i.e. that it will be easily and equally available and functional across the entire single market of the Union. In different countries there was applied a different approach, so in principle there exist 28 different versions of e-signature. Some of them are offering it for free, in some other countries like e.g. in Slovakia it has been available only for a rather high fee of around 80 Euro. But there are still not yet so many applications as we have mentioned it above where to use it. Hence, especially in the case of SME, citizens, etc. it is rather too expensive if there are not available so many e-applications where e.g. SME could use it. The same situation is regarding G2C where is still relatively little e-agendas where the citizens could use their e-signatures, etc. Now there has been going e.g. in Slovakia a gradual implementation of the new e-ID with chips. It could be expected that the entire procedure will be then more simple and it can serve not only as an e-signature tool. It is also much cheaper than a “classical” e-Signature as it costs only 4.50 Euro so it is possible to expect that it will be more widely used than the existing e-signature. All that makes this problem area more closer to the practical needs of people as well as businesses especially those belonging to SME. All such applications like arranging e-ID, passports, driving and other documents, etc. are promised to be accessible electronically through this new e-ID alias e-signature. We have to only hope that it will be as being promised.
e-Invoicing and e-Procurement. E-Invoicing and e-Procurement are other main and very important preconditions for developing modern e-Business within the future EU digital internal e-market. There again has been achieved some progress on the national level of individual EU member states but just a very little regarding the unified “EU common e-digital market” of the EU28. The situation is similar like in the case of e-signature i.e. there are more or less working national systems but not the one for the needs of the EU future common digital e-market. One of the main problems is not only the technological one but also the language one as most countries are publishing their e-tenders only in the national languages and thus cutting off potential suppliers from other EU member states. Although it is clear that if it is published in one of 24 official but also national languages of the EU and not also in one of the basic three working languages of the EU i.e. especially in English but also French and German then it is really difficult to consider such tenders as really ones that could be also EU acceptable. More strict legislation regarding also the language aspects is more than needed also in this problem area. As in many other similar problem areas just to have an EU directive and not more stronger EU regulation is most probably not the solution for achieving really and truly EU-wide solutions suitable for the future e-Europe.
e-Health. Without any doubts the e-health is one of the key sectors of the future e-Europe if we take into account the demographic development in the EU and especially very fast growing the share of the aging population on its overall population. Again as in other areas also in this one, some progress has been achieved on the national level especially in some most developed EU member states and especially in its Nordic group of states but there is again existing a big problem regarding the e-Health for the entire e-Europe. The main problems again are not in the technological aspects of its implementation but in the legislative and organizational ones. There has been existing already for years a kind of the “common” EU Health Insurance Card but in its classical plastic form only. It means that if the patient needs some medical care outside of its national territory the main problem is that foreign doctor has no information about the particular patient as the above plastic card contains no e-medical records, diagnosis, medications, etc. Hence for the foreign doctor it is sometimes too risky to offer any kind of medical services without this key medical information. Of course in case of life threatening cases some first emergency is normally provided but anything else without the proper medical e-documentation is very problematic and mostly rejected. It will be definitely needed to force the EU member states and their medical authorities to speed up their effort in creating a kind of unified and/or standardized EU e-medical records in the form that it will be easily acceptable within the entire EU! Then also all other related agendas like e-prescriptions, e-consulting and advisory medical services will be fully available to all EU citizens irrespectively where they need any kind of medical services or help.
e-Surveillance. Again by a certain paradox of the entire e-Europe implementation strategy that although this specific sector of the future e-Europe originally has not been a part of it at all, in practice it is one of the most developed and according to many accounts one of the sectors being truly and fully developed across the entire EU. As in various other similar problem areas also in case of e-surveillance its enormous development and almost perfection has been achieved as a kind of secondary result of the ongoing technological development in the modern smart ICT and their applications as it is in case of e.g. mobile phones, tablets, social networks, navigation systems, etc. Mostly it is so thanks to their enormous popularity among the people in general and the EU citizens as well. Moreover if we take into account that it is a citizenship with one of the highest standard of living in the world and thus having enough finances also for following and utilize the results of the latest technological development in this area. Hence even without any special interest and intentions of the operators and through them all interested parties either from the governmental as well as private sector they all have at their finger- tips enormous amounts of and very often even most sensitive personal, business, state/administrative information. As our ongoing research under the EU funded projects SMARTY, CONSENT, RESPECT have documented then it is only a question of legislative, ethical and administrative respects to what extent and if at all that very rich source of data would be used properly exclusively only for the purposes that data was officially recorded for, or it would be misused also for some other often discriminatory, non-ethical or even criminal purposes. In this connection again more stronger and unquestionable EU legislation on the protection of personal data, human dignity, privacy, confidentiality in communications, etc. would be needed to be enacted as soon as possible as otherwise there is a real thread that the generally adopted fundamental human rights and protection of personal data, etc. will become only a document that nobody will be respecting.
e-Inclusion. Thank to above technological progress being achieved especially in popularity of mobile phones but also tablets, smart phones, etc. as we have been dealing with them in the previous part of this paper also one of the critical and most important parts of all strategies on the e-Europe has become a very practical and relatively easy to be implemented. Although again as in various other similar cases the strategies since the first one i.e. regarding the EU/Lisbon strategy have not been quite clear how to achieve the full e-Inclusion i.e. that every citizen of the future e-Europe will become integral part of this modern information society where everybody will become e-included one. Thanks again especially to popularity of mobile phones and/or in particular of their smart phone versions it has become a common reality. From smallest kids up to the oldest senior citizens all of them are nowadays users of this mobile latest smart ICT and thus also an integral part of their e-inclusion into the contemporary modern information society of the EU. The only problem is that this natural and easy going process of “informatization” of society is not more supported by those who are for this e-Inclusion directly responsible i.e. the EU as well as national authorities, There is still not existing enough relevant applications and programs that would be really fully and truly utilized their extremely big potential of these mobile as well as smart phones for all various needs of people in the case of e-Health, e-Education, e-Culture, e-Democracy, etc. There is not a short list of various applications in this respect but they are mostly results of business needs of producers and operators and in many cases more for their profit needs like e.g. various games, entertainment, etc. than for above practical needs of ordinary citizens in other they could to the full benefit from being an integral part of the e-Europe and all its potential e-benefits and e-services, etc.
e-Education. As mentioned in the previous part of this paper, the potential of the development in e-education especially regarding the so-called long-life education especially for adults as well as senior citizens has acquired through above mobile ICT quite new potential horizons. So far this potential has not yet been fully utilized especially in case of elderly and senior citizens for whom the e-education and/or better m-education is the most convenient ways together with the TV how to keep them up-to-date regarding the abruptly changing world. Hence in this respect there are quite big reserves and also potential to use the latest ICT for long life and/or various other forms of informal education. Otherwise, e-learning facilities for young people studying in various educational institutions are basically fully provided as the necessary technological basis has been widely available especially thanks to relatively cheap laptops and tablets and of course also smart phones. However also in this area of e-education there has been existing a serious problem regarding the availability of suitable teachers and educators. As in the most countries especially in the new EU member states the salaries of teachers are quite low ones it is no attraction especially for young people to teach at schools. After acquiring some practical skills and practice as the rule they quit their school jobs and go to work for private sector that has been paying much better salaries than it is in the school system.
e-Content and e-Libraries. Very closely related issue to the above problems regarding the e-education has been the problem of e-content and e-libraries. As we have mentioned also above there is still existing to some extent the lack of programs that would be supporting e-learning, life long and/or other forms of informal education i.e. educational forms especially intended for people who are already not a part of the regular formal educational systems at schools, etc. In this specific respect the role of the rich e-content and e-libraries are representing a very important and needed part of the e-Europe strategy. It is clear that some progress has already been achieved also in this respect but the more consistent progress has been to some extent negatively effected by the lack of funding for the necessary staffing as needed for this kind of work. In most cases the practice in this problem area has been based on utilization of the work of some volunteers who in cooperation with librarians have been providing scanning of documents, materials, etc. of the future e-content and e-libraries. It is evident that such an important and to some extent also specific work especially in case of work with some historical or archive documents and/or other objects of interest like cultural items (paintings, sculptures, museum artefacts, etc.) require a bit more professional than just a volunteers capacities of students, etc.. Then again the initiative is in the hands of various private providers of various searching engines that for their commercial reasons are placing on Internet an e-content that in many cases is in direct contradiction to any elementary requirements for good habits, morale, etc. Again as in case of some other problem areas as we have mentioned that above it would require to get more support from the national administrations and governments not to underestimate this one of the key areas of the future information society. They have to create all necessary also financial and professional preconditions in order it would be secured for the benefits of the future information society that without the e-content and e-libraries cannot be existing. Otherwise they would be dominated by the e-content not for benefits of people but for various private providers and their only mostly profit oriented interests including such criminal e-content like regarding pornography, drugs, violence, terrorism, etc. of which the Internet is unfortunately too full regarding its e-content.
e-Knowledge and e-Skills. It is absolutely necessary that the tasks of e-Europe strategy in the above areas of e-Content and e-Libraries have to support first of all, all various forms of e-content that represents the best what has been achieved in all various forms and categories of the social, economic, cultural, social, etc. areas of the human and societal activities. After all it was one of the key strategic objectives of the original Lisbon strategy that has as one of its main objectives defined the future EU as the most advanced knowledge based economy and information society in the world, Although this objective then later has been to some extent subdued as unrealistic and has been replaced by some less ambitious strategic objectives, it is clear that the process of supporting the spreading and dissemination of the best knowledge and skills from all various sectors of the socio-economic life has to be still in the forefront of the EU as well as national authorities regarding their objectives regarding the future information society. In this respect the first and most important source of such best knowledge and skill we see in the projects and programs and their results as achieved by the research and development projects being funded by the EU under its Frame work programs up the latest one 7FP that was running as the main vehicle of the EU funded research in years 2007-13. For the future it has been reorganized as the HORIZON 2020 R&D strategy for years 2014-20. Under these previous 1-7FPs there were completed really many so to say thousands of very successful projects with in many cases most relevant results for potentially very important improvements in various aspects of the socio-economic reality in the future EU. The main problem was that until now there have not been found a system that would guaranty that these remarkable R&D results would be fully utilized and implemented also in the practice on the EU as well as national level of individual member states. From our own long year experience from working permanently on various EU funded projects since adoption of the Lisbon strategy i.e. since year 2000 we have learnt that most or at least many member states rather apply for the EU funding for their own national programs and projects than would apply for the less funding that would be needed for using the results of the successful EU funded projects that are available for an immediate utilization and implementation in the national conditions from the EU Repository of all successfully completed EU funded projects. Again a more strict regulation would be needed that would force the member states to use these results rather than to claim EU funding for their various national projects or initiatives. That is in our opinion the best way how to achieve that we would not have in the EU so many various national versions of e-Signature, e-Procurements, e-Invoicing, etc. as we have characterized these problems in the previous parts of this our paper.
e-Infrastructure. It is absolutely clear that all the above mentioned problem areas of the future e-Europe and of course also many other of them not to mentioned here in order to be developed properly are fully depended on the existence and some availability of suitable modern latest ICT technological basis. Or as it has been characterized in all EU development strategies it has to be based on the modern technological “backbone” based on the cheap and widely available Internet and the same also regarding the mobile phone networks with again cheap roaming across the entire EU, etc. In this respect all EU strategies on the development of the future modern e-Europe have stressed first of all also the necessity to build a EU wide high speed broadband Internet that would cover all EU member states in full of its availability by the target year 2020 under the HORIZON 2020.strategy. Thus the entire e-Europe strategy has to have at its disposal also its inevitable e-Infrastructure. It is clear it would be much better if such an e-infrastructure has been already available in full right now, but as the popular saying goes it is better if it is late than never.
Some conclusions and recommendations
In conclusion we would like just to state that as we have presented it in the previous parts of this paper it is clear that since the inception of the original Lisbon strategy on e-Europe some evident progress has been achieved in implementation of all various areas of this strategy. In many cases as we have tried also to point it out it is not needed much more effort to achieve the objectives in full. But in any case it would require a better coordinated approach especially from the EU member states regarding e.g. their willingness to use the results of the EU funded R&D projects rather than to emphasize their own “ambitions” to build the future e-Europe more through various national initiatives than to accept and fully utilize results of the EU funded projects. After all, they are financed from the EU budget that is primarily based on the contributions from all EU member states! On the other hand in many cases it would help to the EU e-Europe strategy if also the EU itself would be supporting its own strategies also by more strict legislation that would force the member states to be more interested in achieving the Union objectives than only in their own national “subsystems” of the future e-Europe as the whole!
In summary it could be stated that the utilization of the latest smart ICT has been becoming the key aspect of the contemporary development and implementation of the e-Government in all EU member states and especially it is becoming the most crucial success factor in the EU NMS – new member states due to their some still existing delay behind the so called “old” EU members. In this respect most will depend upon the way how the EU NMS will manage to comply with the main strategic objectives of the current ongoing implementation of the EU strategy HORIZON 2020 and/or EUROPE 2020.
At this part of our paper we would like to acknowledge the funding we have received for our EU projects SMART, RESPECT and CONSENT under the previous 7th FP of the European Union. Our many thanks and acknowledgment goes also to Prof. J. Cannataci of the University of Gronningen for his leadership and overall support to our research under the above three EU funded projects.