Germany's government agencies are often overwhelmed with work. Part of the reason is that many of the services they provide have to be obtained in person. ekom21, a municipal IT-services provider, now offers digital solutions that can put more and more services online. Starting right away, the new solutions, first introduced in the state of Hesse, will also be available in Rhineland-Palatinate and the Saarland. They're being provided in close cooperation with T-Systems.
I recently had an appointment at my local government office. I needed to change my mother's address registration. Very soon after I showed up, the overhead monitor flashed my number, right on time. And just ten minutes later, I was back outside again. I had received quick, competent, friendly service. The only thing was that my waiting period for that appointment had been nearly two months.
You're moving, building a house, getting married - or getting divorced. Perhaps you need to make an entry in the Commercial Register, or perhaps you need an import permit. Many different types of private and commercial business needs call for a trip to your local government office. Many of them could be handled online, however. As Gabi Göpfert explains, the problem in Germany is that 'among the EU's 28 members, Germany ranks 24th in the area of eGovernment, i.e. in online provision of government services for citizens.'
Göpfert is head of sales, marketing and consulting at ekom21, a municipal IT -services company, based in the state of Hesse, that offers IT solutions for the public sector. ekom21's solutions are now being adopted in other German states as well, for two main reasons. The first is the incentive provided by a recently passed new Online Access Act (Onlinezugangsgesetz - OZG) that requires the Federal Government and the Länder to begin offering services via online portals by 2022. The second is the stability of the services platform that ekom21 provides to administrations.
Currently, ekom21 is preparing the way for implementation of the OZG in Rhineland-Palatinate - and, at the same time, in the Saarland. The effort has been commissioned by Rhineland-Palatinate's state office for data and information (Landesbetrieb Daten und Information). T-Systems is on board in a consulting role that extends to process rollouts, data security and user training.
If you need administrative services - go online
The platform for all the applications and processes is known as civento. ekom21's digital solution enhances administrative efficiency. It delivers services to citizens digitally and transparently. civento is standardized, and it has a modular structure that makes it expandable and flexible, and able to meet the changing needs of today's administrations, all at a reasonable cost. It brings these advantages to bear both in government agencies' internal communications and in their efficient provision of services for citizens.
The types of administrative services that citizens need can be grouped into life categories, such as health, work, home living and hobbies. Hobbies? Yes, government agencies become involved when hobbies call for permits or licenses, as is the case with fishing, hunting and dog ownership. With regard to the needs of businesses in this context, the key administrative term is 'business situation,' a collective term used by the OZG to categorize administrative services for commercial enterprises. Such 'situations,' for example, include the need to register a new business or to obtain a special road-use permit.
eGovernment in action
In building the platform, ekom21 and T-Systems took a total of 575 individual municipal services into account. They had to be so specific because different municipalities structure their services in different ways. Some outsource their waste management, for example, while others handle it themselves. They also differ with respect to the individual processes that their services entail. The prerequisites for obtaining a certificate of eligibility for public housing (Wohnberechtigungsschein), for example, can relate to such aspects as nationality, marital status and disabilities, and each such aspect can generate its own processes.
All in all, the system still requires much more tweaking. One thing is already clear, however: More services online means less waiting time for citizens. And less time spent sitting at government offices. In short, the system is a win for administrations, for citizens and for Germany's eGovernment ranking.
Someday, I might want to apply online for a fishing permit. But where should I do that? Should I move to Rhineland-Palatinate? Or to the Saarland?