Experience sharing in the area of e-Governance among experts from Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania in search for the best working practices for successful introduction of e-reforms. This was the overarching topic set for discussion at the ELF Workshop “Re-Designing Public Services for the 21st Century – e-Governance in Romania”. The event was the second of two expert workshops within the ELF annual project, supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast Europe, “Re-Designing Public Services for the 21st Century – e-Governance in Southeast Europe” and was held in Bucharest, Romania, on 7th July 2016.
With an introductory presentation at the beginning of the session, Aet Rahe, former head of the Estonian State Information Systems Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, outlined the main components of the ICT-supported governance and the guiding principles behind the successful implementation of the e-reform in Estonia. The “data query once-only” principle, the citizen as the sole owner of the data, the “no legacy policy”, the broadening of public-private partnership, and the enforced use of e-ID cards were noted as key factors for boosting the provision of e-services and their broader acceptance among the population. Data security issues are, however, often politicised and speculated and hamper reform process. “It shall not be a political debate. We need to trust engineers because, at the end, it is all an engineer’s issue,” remarked Rahe, “while paper documents cannot be checked for manipulations, changes in digital data always leave traces”.
It is pivotal that from the very beginning a coherent and incremental approach towards switching to e-solutions is in place. Led by the state, this approach does not exclude citizens, but rather allows them to contribute actively to the development and design of services, according to Filip Dobranič, Co-founder of Danes Je Nov Dan Project in Slovenia . In this respect e-Governance closely relates to good governance. In certain cases progress is hindered by a strong reluctance to provide people with the tools they need to govern the governance process, however, civic ICT-based initiatives could foster greater participation and boost electronic governance at all levels.
During the second part of the workshop, the participants elaborated on the challenges for successful reforming of the Public Administration and the state-provided services, with Romania as a case study. It was highlighted that inconsistent e-policies of different governments resulted in irrational spending of significant resources, which could have, otherwise, granted much better internal functioning of the state administration, on one hand, and better, more efficient, provision of services to citizens and business, on the other. On behalf of the current Romanian government, Radu Puchiu, State Secretary of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Romania, outlined the major challenges before the e-Governance reform in the country, and reported on the government’s commitment to tackle the reform at all levels.
At the end of the workshop, all participants agreed on the importance of a follow-up public event, which should bring together e-governance experts, state officials, and the public opinion in a debate about the e-Governance future of Romania and the establishment of more efficient and transparent ICT-supported governance in the country.