Justice services lag in European e-government, report finds

By on 07/10/2016

A new report assessing digital government services across Europe has found that while financial and business needs are increasingly being served online, progress lags behind in areas like justice.

The EU e-government report 2016 found that 81% of public services in Europe are now available online, but the speed and ease of using these services has only improved by 1% since 2013.

Financial services, including corporate tax and VAT claims, are the most developed online, even though they seem more complex to develop. This is probably because they “bring in money for the government itself”, the report says.

However, the availability and quality of online services pertaining to justice, such as starting a small claims procedure, accessing social welfare appeals or challenging a VAT refund, remain below average. The report describes this as “a missed opportunity to empower users with digital means to attain justice”.

A key objective of the EU’s digital single market strategy, released in 2015, is to promote e-services that encourage cross-border mobility – but 25% of cross-border services in the EU are still completely offline. The UK, Denmark and Sweden got the highest scores for business mobility, but their performance for citizen mobility was considerably lower. Scores for citizen mobility are especially high for Malta, Estonia and Sweden.

The report ranks Malta first in Europe for e-government services, followed by Austria, Estonia, Portugal and Finland. Malta is the only country in the EU where all public services are available online, though Austria and Portugal are not far behind, at 98%. Greece and Romania have the least services available online.

The executive chair of the Malta Information Technology Agency, Tony Sultana, said the positive results reflected the government’s drive to produce secure, transparent and user-centric online services. He also said a number of mobile services were currently being developed, according to Malta Today.

The report found that just one in three public websites is mobile-friendly in the EU, while 54% of Europeans use a mobile device to access the internet.

The benchmarking study, carried out for the European Commission by Capgemini, IDC, Sogeti, and Politecnico di Milano, measured progress in the 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and Montenegro, in four areas. These were user centricity, transparency, cross-border mobility, and use of key technological enablers, such as ID-cards and e-documents.

In April 2016, the Commission launched a new e-government action plan for 2016-2020, which prioritises digital-by-fault, cross-border capability, inclusivity, data protection and transparency.

One in five Europeans (21%) do not have the basic digital skills needed to access internet in the first place. This ranges from one in two Turkish citizens (50%) to almost every citizen in Luxembourg (97%).

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See also:

UK select committee questions timetable for digital tax reforms

Australian government launches new digital marketplace

UK Government Digital Service sets up international team

Michelle Fitzgerald, chief digital officer, City of Melbourne: interview

New digital services to combat Athens tax evasion

Paul Shetler, chief executive, Digital Transformation Office, government of Australia: Exclusive interview

Mike Bracken, former head of the Government Digital Service (GDS): Exclusive interview

What’s so great about Estonia’s e-Residency programme?

Colin MacDonald, CIO for the government of New Zealand: Exclusive Interview

About Tamsin Rutter

Tamsin Rutter is a journalist based in Brussels, Belgium. She writes on a variety of topics, including public services, cities, local and central government and education. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network and Housing Network.

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