Digitization of administration: Federal government leaves schedule open

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The federal states had until the end of 2022 to digitize all 575 administrative services and offer them online.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The Federal Ministry of the Interior, headed by department head Nancy Faeser (SPD), is drawing conclusions from the hitherto sluggish government digitization in Germany. After the federal and state governments missed their self-imposed goal of digitizing hundreds of administrative services by the end of last year, there should no longer be a timetable for the provision of a digital service for citizens and companies.

This emerges from a draft law available to the Handelsblatt, with which the previously applicable Online Access Act (OZG) is to be amended accordingly. A “grace period” for the failure to implement the OZG “is expressly not specified,” says the draft that has now been voted on by the departments.

“Providing electronic access to administrative services is a permanent task for the federal and state governments, including the municipalities.” Another deadline would contradict this statement.

Five years were actually planned for the digitization of public administration. The OZG, which was passed by the Bundestag in August 2017, should serve this purpose. It gave the states time to digitize all 575 administrative services and offer them online by the end of 2022. In order to push the process forward, the OZG follow-up law should remedy the situation.

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According to the draft law, digital administrative procedures are to be significantly simplified. So far, the federal and state governments have each offered their own digital citizen accounts, which could be used to process administrative services such as applying for ID documents or obtaining building permits. In the future, the state’s own developments are to be replaced by a central citizen account provided by the federal government.

Digitization: So far no “relief effect” in the municipalities discernible

The federal states have a crucial role to play in implementation. According to the draft law, they are “obligated to ensure the technical and organizational requirements for connecting their municipalities to the portal network”.

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This is justified by the fact that the digitization of administration should have a “relief effect”, especially in the municipalities. “So far, however, this has not been recorded at the municipal level,” says the draft law.

It should also be possible to communicate with the respective authority via the new user accounts. It should be made possible, for example, that the information on applications submitted can be corrected or supplemented after the application has been submitted. Questions about the status of the procedure should also be possible. Conversely, authorities should also be able to ask the user about the user account.

With the OZG follow-up law, the government is now also striving to implement the “once only” principle that was already laid out in the federal e-government law. What is meant by this is the rule that citizens and companies only have to provide the authorities with their data once. So far, the principle has been opposed by data protection law reservations in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Administrative digitization: The original approach has turned out to be “not realistic”.

With the draft law that has now been presented, the Ministry of the Interior believes that it has found a legally secure solution. Citizens and companies should therefore have the choice of whether they either submit certain data to the authority digitally themselves or arrange for an “authority-side, electronic verification retrieval”.

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“This option only applies if the respective proof is available electronically and can be retrieved automatically without delay, i.e. within a very short time,” says the draft law.

In the 50-page document, the Ministry of the Interior draws a mixed balance of what has been achieved so far. There are “recognizable successes” in the digitization of administration. At the same time, however, the degree of digitization and satisfaction with the administration fell short of the expectations of the population and the economy. “The original approach, that the federal and state governments implement their catalogs of requirements independently, has turned out to be unrealistic.”

Even the attempt made last year to make adjustments did not help. A so-called booster that was decided last May, which was actually supposed to ensure that 35 particularly important services are quickly available online across the board, did not solve the problem of sluggish digitization.

More: Government adviser: “We have to put up with minimal administrative digitization”

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