From Austria, we understand the importance of identity federation creating the right links between the sovereign domain, businesses and citizens.
Beyond being exemplary in terms of "paperless government", what is probably most remarkable in Austria is the collective will to turn e-Government into a competitive challenge to significantly increase the attractiveness of the country along four themes:
Top-ranking country in 2010 in the European e-Government Benchmark Survey (Capgemini, IDC, Rand Europe, Sogeti and the European Commission DTi - December 2010)
Austria also came first in 2009, 2008 and 2007
Best practice: http://egovlabs.gv.at - public database of open-source modules
Austria's approach has been very similar to Estonia. Differences lie in the initial goals, and the way in which the federal state has been able to bring together local authorities and various partners, to avoid strong resistance from administrative bodies firmly rooted in old and unwieldy bureaucratic ways.
In a pro-active step to modernize its governments, Austria set the challenge of creating a modern communications framework for companies, and a very advantageous competitive environment to attract companies and promote socio-economic growth in the country.
Due to several interesting points, the successful Austrian approach could serve as an example for others.
As in Estonia, public authorities imposed the rules it wanted to implement in society as a whole on itself first. First legal proceedings, then the law-drafting process, closely followed by all governmental procedures, were brought in line with the program for a paperless government, as set out by the Bundeskanzleramt (Austrian Federal Chancellery).
Sustainable development in the digital society: a mindset
(source: Bundeskanzleramt Österreich)
But it is also impressive to see how the government has from the outset stood up for consumers.
Federal authorities provide, standardize, secure, and ensure the widespread deployment of this approach, as well as creating sovereign partnerships (certification of national proof of identity distributed by banks and recognized by the state), while consumers enjoy the fruits of this labor.
This sovereignly endorsed proof of identity can then be loaded onto a bank card, a ‘citizen card’, a healthcare card, or even onto a mobile phone.
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Another success story is the uptake of the system. Identity and traceability are very sensitive topics in Austria. The government had to show that this national identity card was created by citizens for citizens. The Chancellery declared it would guarantee citizens were protected, and that it would carry out the wishes of the general public.
There are probably more similarities than real differences with the procedures in other countries in the same situation. But the fact that the Austrian government wanted to create a ‘citizen card', highlighting the link to citizens’ rights and responsibilities, rather than an ‘identity card’, too reminiscent of identity checks, was a major decision to position the scheme within the spirit of modernization. Strengthening social cohesion would take priority over state security. This bold decision was taken in 2002, when a security-obsessed climate was reigning in the aftermath of 9/11, and has since been followed by Portugal, which made the same choices.
Federating identification services for the benefits of Portuguese citizens
Another remarkable choice for the time was to implement identity federation. This approach was adopted long before the Liberty Alliance had laid out its model.
Efficiency gains from e-Government often arise thanks to cross-functional data management, fluid workflows and the interoperability of databases. Without these improvements, citizens would constantly be asked for information already in the system. But the Austrian constitution prohibits the cross-referencing of databases. Unless this interoperability could be under the control of citizens themselves, they had the key, and the right to accept or refuse. Each area of administration therefore has a separate user ID for each citizen, but all these user IDs have a shared root which only the citizen and the Privacy Commission hold the key to.
The e-Government program was created by citizens for citizens, with a clear, global goal of improving the quality of life of citizens, strengthening social cohesion and improving national and local competitiveness.
These efforts have been unambiguously approved by citizens.
In Austria, priority was also given to eliminating the use of paper, and reducing carbon emissions, but decision-making authorities no longer need to be made aware of these issues through a Green initiative. There is a belief that both public authorities and citizens can find common ground, and collectively implement the digital modernization of the state. This belief has accomplished a lot more for the Green development of the country than all the measures to count how many tons of carbon have been saved by the digital modernization of the Austrian justice system.
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