By Pierre-Luc Arnaud, Gemalto
The central challenge, and one of the most fundamental drivers of eGovernment policies, is to provide a modern, competitive framework for the development, both economic and social, of the State.
Specifically, this challenge is in regard to providing an essential contribution to human, social and economic development, to the benefit of citizens, with a major impact on the quality of social cohesion and, in particular, for the most underprivileged members of society (dubbed ‘eInclusion’ programs). It is also about providing strategic support to revitalize the competitiveness of companies: offering a modern framework that reduces bureaucratic red tape in order to encourage company creativity and the provision of capital, and promote economic development. To this end, the legal framework promoting electronic exchanges is drawn up – digital trust rules – to which systems such as electronic signature also make a direct contribution.
This brings political advantages; clear support to democracy, an improvement to citizens’ quality of life and the inclusion of all citizens for stronger social cohesion.
Set out the progressive stages of the modernization procedure
The introduction of an eGovernment program represents a major political decision, involving all administrative bodies and reulting in a cultural transformation in service relations practices between public service providers and users. This procedure may last several years, so it is necessary to ensure that the different stages are designed to run in parallel, and to launch pilot projects demonstrating the political will, the potential results and benefits that may be generated by the program.
Governments most often adopt a 3-stage procedure to achieve these objectives:
· Establish trust in digital exchanges with the legal and regulatory framework extended across all modern information and communication tools. Its aim is to produce a legal basis for all of the rules establishing the ‘framework of trust’ from the validity of digital exchanges and contracts, of digital identification and signature to the definition of Private Data (DCP) for each citizen, with the rules and organization to ensure its protection.
· Provide secure ID documents based on a reliable civil register; to offer every individual access to each of the State’s modernized services; to promote national and international mobility, with a view to protecting citizens’ identity and fighting fraud and cybercrime. Such secure documents also help countries participate in international cooperation with regard to the regulation of migration. It is also the first real, tangible result of the transformation program and is why the first usage allocated to these documents is as a travel document, standardizing them in line with ICAO requirements.
· Develop services in the social, economic, health and education sectors. This policy includes the opening of community-based services and citizen information centers to ensure that support of this modernization is provided as locally as possible in all territories and to all sections of society, covering all events occurring as part of everyday life.
Establishing an environment of trust in the State’s modernization
For the State to be modernized, all the offerings by IT and communications technologies need to be put to use in order to establish flexible, interactive relations, without space or time constraints, between citizens and public service providers. The transition towards multimedia communication is an opportunity to revise or rework old legal texts as well.
The expansion of communication involving digital and multimedia technologies has led to the need for these new communication channels to be included within the framework of a mutual ‘pact of trust’ between citizens and the State, so that the legal requirements can be clearly indicated and, above all, easily identified.
A ‘pact of trust’ of this sort is at the heart of the modernization policy and is based on two elements:
· Specification of the legal requirements in terms of secure identification;
· Authorization of the use of the digital channel for all acts and transactions, and the validity conditions for these exchanges.
Ensuring identification reliability
The reliability and security of identification documents are testament to the identity of those taking part in the exchange, and ensure the protection and confidentiality of the data exchanged.
These documents are produced upon presentation of recognized civil-register documents, or corresponding certificate extracts (birth certificates, population registries, etc.).
The civil register is the parent database, certifying the authenticity of identities and family ties. Modernizing it and ensuring its reliability is generally the keystone to the whole procedure. The civil register generates ‘founding documents’, providing a base on which secondary secure documents (electronic or biometric) can be produced (public official’s card, ID card, passport, resident permit, driving licence, health card, social security card, etc.)
Adapting the legal and regulatory framework
The legal and regulatory framework beyond the strict authorization to proceed by digital channel shall be covered from a global perspective, encapsulating the complete eGovernment program. Its aim is to produce a legal basis for all of the rules establishing the ‘framework of trust’.
It is operative once it ensures the continuity of rights in all circumstances and all communication channels with the same legal security, specifying in particular:
· The validity of written documents, contracts and digital exchanges, of digital identification and electrical signature in compliance with international standards;
· Rules governing citizens’ electronic relationship with respect to public services and to eCommerce;
· The definition of Private Data for each citizen and the rules to ensure its protection;
· The rules governing digital management of the civil register, including, for those countries that have opted for it, the rules of use for associated biometric databases.
Managing and unifying the program and its challenges, and measuring the results
The procedure relies on tight coordination between each of the State services involved in enabling such a plan to succeed, focusing in particular on:
· Inter-ministerial coordination, often under the auspices of the Prime Minister, at times the Finance Minister, who strategically manages the State’s modernization procedure;
· A technical or operational inter-ministerial committee for the ‘Modernization of Public Services’,
· An inter-ministerial technical platform providing a link between the various ministries, offering assistance to the different public services concerned, covering in particular the IT operation for the creation, distribution and inspection of the validity of secured documents.
Some countries, such as Belgium and Austria, have even established their own approach for the marketing and targeting of their services, based on this representative group. Because the regional level is necessary in order to guarantee success at a local level and community-based support, it is clearly advantageous to associate them within the foundations of the program in local life.
eGovernment is a long-term society-based procedure requiring large-scale financial investment. The political justification will be made easier if services enabling quick returns are developed.
Several examples can be cited of ‘quick wins’ in terms of savings: direct payment by complementary health insurers for social security cover – food aid in very poor countries – social services, on-line police complaints, on-line tax services, etc. These services can offer an excellent political justification for building the entire back office, onto which other services can then be added.