Digitalisation is presenting a challenge to public administration. At the beginning of March, key players got together at the Digitaler Staat (Digital State) Congress in Berlin to define necessary steps. Hans-Henning Lühr, State Counsellor at the Senate Department of Finance of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and Chair of the IT Planning Council, expects that politics and administration will take a completely new direction in terms of public services, summing up “we need new statecraft”.
HANS-HENNING LÜHR has been State Counsellor at the Senate Department of Finance of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen since 2003. Born in 1950 in Winsen (Luhe), Lower Saxony, Hans-Henning Lühr studied Public Administration in state and local government in his home region before completing a degree in law, business administration and history at the University of Bremen in 1978. He has been chair of the IT Planning Council since 2019. The IT Planning Council is the political steering committee for information technology and e-government made up of representatives from the federal government, states and local authorities.
Hans-Henning Lühr: The Online Access Act (OZG) is the benchmark against which the administration is measured with the successive and task-related implementation of online services, digital access for citizens and companies (electronic proof of identity eID) as well as the modernisation of portals and records as central challenges. In order that there are no missteps from the very beginning, the online services must be linked to underlying processes and the alignment with business processes is required to achieve long-term effects in the provisioning of services.
The goal is to continue to simplify the processes. Currently, one request has to be made for each individual service. Our vision is that it’ll be possible to receive a service with just a few clicks on a smartphone, but in order to make that possible we have to question the regulations and update them to meet the requirements of the digital age. There is a whole new level of discussion around digital public services. 75% of public administrative services are provisioned at a local level and are closely linked with the developments of digital services in civil society and the economic sector which makes the topic a political issue and raises further questions: Do we need a common platform to be able to ensure comprehensive public services on-site? How do we guarantee data sovereignty? How do we achieve joint service management between local authorities, the institutions of civil society and the market? How do we set up new processes within the framework of a multi-level, federal administrative management? We need to put all opportunities for change in the spotlight and start a dialogue about them. We must absolutely not fall behind again when it comes to digitalisation in Germany. The OZG is relevant today, but digital public services are our future.
The federal organisation of the German government, states and local authorities need a new statecraft and there are four levels to consider.
First and foremost, digital sovereignty is crucial. Whether the software is open source or run with a licence is secondary. There are however two factors to consider. In the medium and long-term, we don’t want to be dependent on individual monopolies and duopolies, preferring to have access to a market of software manufacturers for public administration. Unfortunately, the industry is still playing catch up with consolidation processes. In the long-term, however, we need to maintain control over IT security and data and not become dependent on corporate strategies or other governments, which is why we need to open up communication with providers and manufacturers.
Bremen has been committed for a long time to socially responsible IT procurement, founding an alliance in 2015 for the socially responsible procurement of IT which Bechtle technology suppliers are also involved in. In our opinion, as IT users ourselves, we have a responsibility for the people employed in the supply chain, from the miners in Africa to the working conditions in Asian factories where ILO standards are not necessarily complied with. In this respect, it is not a question of being realistic or not. We also have to reduce the amount of resources we use, which is why our service provider Dataport has had one of the most energy-efficient data centres in Germany built.
Tasks need to be intelligently split between the state and business, and between authorities, public IT service providers and suppliers to drive competition. At the same time, data and its processing have to be secure, transparent and remain in our control. Bechtle can support us in selecting the correct supplier and be a reliable partner for Dataport for business processes, user help desk and in the support and delivery processes for hardware. This, in turn, is a great help for us. Moreover, we need to start a dialogue that goes beyond finding solutions for everyday issues. I expect enterprises to make a constructive contribution so that developments can be made in the constitutional and social state. The state is facing a period of uncertainty and crises and business blueprints are not enough to tackle the challenges that have arisen.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that going it alone is no longer the way forward. We need federal collaboration and on an even more intensive level than before. The founding of the Federal IT Cooperation (FITKO) by the IT Planning Council is an important step in the right direction. To digitalise the administrative services of the federal government, states and local authorities in a standardised manner, we have to successively expand and strengthen FITKO. The states also have to work much more closely together than they are at the moment in order to ensure that the specialised implementation of OZG is achieved on time. The IT Planning Council has become an important digital-political hub that is also having an effect on socio-politics, into which I am currently channelling all my energy.
Bechtle has been the reliable partner of the digital transformation of public administration for many years. Steven Handgrätinger, Head of the Public Sector Division, Bechtle AG, gives us his future-proof insights into the questions of transformation, disruption and the necessary cultural shift.
STEVEN HANDGRÄTINGER Head of the Public Sector Division, Bechtle AG
Steven Handgrätinger: The organisers—Behörden Spiegel—communicated a very clear message: “Future-oriented answers to the challenges posed by the digitalisation of public administration has to be agile, legitimate and smart.” For me personally, the Online Access Act has been the driving force. The federal cooperation of all those involved, who jointly develop and use services and models is a critical factor for success. In other words, representatives from all levels of the federal government, states and local authorities need to implement sophisticated digital projects in a uniform and structured manner. We’ve taken the first steps in the right direction. We’ll only be able to achieve our objective quickly when the administration also works closely with public IT service providers and businesses. Above all, the measures put into place should transform manual processes into digital ones and it is not enough just to modernise the technology used in existing processes or digitalise everything. In short, a lot has been created and cooperation needs to be orchestrated in order to move forward in an agile, legitimate and smart way
Important decisions are being made. The implementation of the Online Access Act is in full flow and the schools digital pact is creating the necessary foundations for digital education. Both concepts are giving a boost to administrative digitalisation. Making the switch to a digital world is, however, extremely complex and reminds me of a Rubik’s Cube—you can twist and turn as much as you like, but you need to have a strategy. Transferring paper into digital processes and digital spaces requires a rethink.
The public sector is well aware that the digital transformation requires swift and determined action. Everyone is clear about the situation. They are creating modern, secure and flexible infrastructure, digitalising services, and leveraging modern, private cloud structures. A journey that is hard to undertake alone. This often raises the question of “how”, but it’s the “what” that needs to be considered first of all. Through qualified consulting, we want to deliver a real-world solution in the administration’s ecosystem and appreciate the very high complexity of the requirements. Using a digital compass, we have developed a metric that can be repeated methodically at any time. In this way, we want to support the necessary cultural shift as best we can with the objective that the measures implemented pay off in digital returns.
To successfully structure change, administration and industry have to work very closely together. A reliable digitalisation partner with a lot of experience in strategy, goal setting, organisation, processes, applications and IT infrastructures is crucial. Generally speaking, a digital transformation is less a question of technology and more one of leadership. As an IT company, we support the public sector in actively, flexibly and conscientiously driving forward developments.
What’s more, we recommend distinct workflow analyses in order to enable local and joint process, customer interaction as well as access to records, and to make services for the target group as smart as possible. Moreover, in all areas of IT, it is necessary to have multi-vendor expertise in the fields of hardware, services, security and software. This is especially the case when it comes to digitising administrative processes and new services, and managing secure access to state-of-the-art information and communication technologies. Ensuring that the more than 20 criteria for effective sovereignty have been achieved is what guides all of our activities. We are sovereign in dealing with IT infrastructures and smart when it comes to current topics like digitalisation, cloud, mobility, security and IT-as-a-Service. You could say, we are all ready to support the public sector on their path to digitalisation.
Initiative such as the Online Access Act, E-government Law, founding of FITKO, digital pact and IT professionalisation and consolidation will continue to sustainable change the public sector in the coming years. There will be a lot of challenges to overcome, which will only be possible when services and their provisioning are bundled as efficiently as possible and provisioned digitally. The decisive factor will be recognising the needs of citizens and customers in order to be able to realise the fusion of smart cities and digital administration services. As described in the Smart Cities Charter, in the end it all boils down to the creation of sustainable cities people want to live in and that requires the administration to drive development and turn the customer’s journey into an experience.
THE ONLINE ACCESS ACT (OZG) requires the federal government, states and local authorities to offer their services digitally via administrative portals by the end of 2022. Citizens and business should be able to access administrative services more quickly, efficiently and in a more user-friendly manner in the future.