The European Union’s member states signed a sweeping declaration today designed to transform the way governments across the continent deliver services by embracing e-government initiatives.
Chief among these plans is an agreement to move forward with development of a digital identification system that can be used by residents to access a wide range of new online public and private services. The agreement calls on the EU to create a framework for ensuring the implementation of electronic IDs, while also ensuring protection of privacy and security of the data.
“All Europeans should be able to access online services in other Member States just as they do at home, and electronic transactions have to become significantly easier in the internal market,” said Andrus Ansip, vice president for the Digital Single Market, in a statement after the accord was signed.
The push for greater e-government adoption is being led by the government of Estonia, which is currently the chair of the European Commission, a position that rotates among member states. Estonia has gained a reputation as a pioneer of e-government services by creating a digital identity card that allows residents to do things like pay taxes, vote, and request various government services online. In addition, lawyers, courts, and banks are also able to leverage the system to authenticate the identity of people for various transactions.
The agreement signed today in the capital of Estonia is officially called the “Tallinn Declaration on e-Government.” It calls on the EU to coordinate plans that would lead to the adoption of the electronic IDs and push for reform of EU and member state laws and regulations to enable such a system.
The document is largely a philosophical statement. The EU still faces the challenge of defining standards, creating a timeline for implementation, and determining how the systems would be funded. In addition, it can expect some controversy, as privacy remains paramount for many residents.
Still, the hope is that by allowing for more efficient delivery of services, the governments can better serve residents, while their own digital sectors benefit from the investment that will be required to put such systems in place.