On 1 January 2010, the Austrian public administration launched a one-stop-shop Business Service Portal (BSP) called 'Unternehmensserviceportal (USP)'. The portal aims to serve as a single entry point for businesses to the administration. By offering information and transaction services, it intends to help businesses to fulfil their legal obligations and to reduce their administrative burdens. The Business Service Portal (BSP) is a federal government-wide measure that is jointly coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Chancellery. Based on business situations, e.g. Starting up, the BSP provides neutral information on an inter-administrative level. Businesses which are registered with the BSP are able to conduct transactions with government authorities by using a wide range of applications such as FinanzOnline (“virtual tax office”), the electronic data exchange with Austrian social security institutions (ELDA) or the Data Processing Register (DVR). Furthermore, user management is available for registered businesses.
The BSP is part of the Austrian admin-burden-reduction initiative that was launched in 2006. The goal of this initiative was to reduce administrative burden on business by 25% by 2012, starting from 4 bn. Euro per year. The Austrian initiative followed an equivalent initiative by the European Commission.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
The Austrian Business Service Portal Act (USPG) created a legal basis for the BSP and requires ministries to work together. This applies to both the information and transaction portions of the BSP. The Business Service Portal Act also stipulates that the BSP will be operated by the Federal Computing Centre. In order to ensure successful implementation of the BSP, a comprehensive project and communication structure was created to optimise information flow between the stakeholders involved.
I. Programme organisation, focus on stakeholders within public administration:
- Executive board: all ministries are represented and the board also included the participation of key partners such as Social Security Institutions, Austrian Economic Chamber and other professional organisations.
- Steering Committee: participation of key ministries Federal Ministry of Finance and Federal Chancellery
- Core team: This team is in charge of the implementation of the six projects and takes care of the relevant project stakeholders.
This structure has allowed all ministries to participate in executive decisions, and enabled technical and operative decisions to be simultaneously taken by the operative organisms. The project management organisation has allowed the establishment of clear and realistic objectives, and the co-ordination of all participants to meet these targets on time, thus delivering a system with high quality.
II. Pilot and User feedback, focus on the end user (= businesses)
Before the launch of the second phase of USP which included the implementation of the new single sign-on and the integration with e-government services, a pilot programme was carried out whereby the system was fully tested on selected companies and other stakeholders. During this pilot phase, focus groups and usability think-aloud techniques were used to understand how users were using the system and what improvements could be made to enhance its usability. The pilot phase was critical to ensure the quality of the final product and satisfaction of end users.
III. Co-operation with business organisations
Close co-operation is maintained with business organisations i.e. the Federal Chamber of Commerce. These stakeholders co-operate actively during the system’s promotion, helping to extend the use of the BSP.
The transaction portion of the BSP offers single sign-on access to all important eGovernment applications provided by the federal government using just one user identifier: the citizen card (mobile or chip card) or FinanzOnline data. Important technical decisions were among others:
- Introduction of a business register by Statistics Austria, that is, combination of the businesses in existing registers under unique identifiers. This is a requirement for single sign-on functionality.
- Introduction of an identity management system for implementing the computer processes related to central role and rights administration that can be used by all procedure partners. The central weapons registry, for example, was the first federal government eGovernment application to make exclusive use of this central component of the BSP in place of its own role and rights administration.
- Provision of a system allowing businesses and procedure partners to perform their own role and rights administration for businesses and their users in the transaction portion of the BSP.
- Full integration of users previously registered with other eGovernment applications (e.g. FinanzOnline).
- Organisational and technical connection of around 20 eGovernment applications using a model developed in-house for this purpose, while complying with national (PVP) and international (SAML 2.0) standards.
- Using standard software as far as possible and taking care of eGovernment standards implemented in Austria in co-operation with the Länder (Styleguide on forms etc.)
Main results, benefits and impacts
The main impact for businesses is that they find all information on new and existing legislation in one place. At the same time businesses can use the transaction part of the BSP for managing all their employee’s user accounts with public e-government services – again in one place.
The assessment of quantitative benefits was prepared in advance with external assistance. Interviews and panels were conducted with businesses, public accountants and IT experts.
The estimates differentiated between benefits from information services and transaction services, and between short-, medium- and long-term benefits.
The potential short-term benefits for business are estimated to range in the area of up to EUR 100 million, being almost evenly divided between information and transaction services. Achieving these potential benefits from information services depends greatly on the quality of the specialised and change information offered. The potential benefits from transaction services are highly dependent on the applications included, new functions offered, the extent to which multiple reports of the same information are avoided, and the extent to which the combining and networking effects from implementing the one-stop eGovernment principle can be used for these applications and functions.
Sign on once – Use all applications (Single Sign-On) – Central user administration
Businesses currently have to sign on to each application separately and administer a large number of access codes and user authorisations. In the case of personnel changes, for example, notification of changes to access codes and user authorisations must be made for each application. This will be possible at a single location in the future. The high level of security offered by the portal, which only allows identified and authenticated users to perform transactions, also opens up possibilities for applications providing large benefits, for example electronic invoice exchange between participants, such as the federal government and a business.
This benefit was realised with the first phase of the BSP. The most important eGovernment applications of the federal government are available to businesses using a single sign-on:
- FinanzOnline (FON)
- Electronic data exchange with Austrian social security institutions (ELDA Online)
- WEB-BE customer portal (WEBEKU) for employers and their authorised representatives
- Social security contribution accounts for insured persons and authorised representatives
- Electronic data management (EDM) for the Ministry of Life
- Online service of the Construction Workers’ Holiday and Severance Pay Fund (eBUAK)
- Consumption/contaminated site tax internet platform (VIPplus)
- Central weapons registry (ZWR)
- E-invoicing of the federal government (ER>B)
- Online Data Processing Register (DVR-Online)
- Gambling machine control system
Additional applications are added continuously!
“One-stop eGovernment Information”: providing businesses with precise specialised and change information to create clarity and transparency
Austria’s businesses complain about being inadequately informed by the public authorities. Due to this fact and the high level of regulatory complexity, businesses spend excessive amounts of time themselves to find information and satisfy their reporting requirements or require the services of external experts, which represents an additional burden for these businesses.
The go-live of the BSP on 1 January 2010 made a central information platform available. The BSP provides basic, specialised and change information for businesses on around 3,000 content pages in a single location. These contents are directly provided by the legally competent federal ministries. Collaboration with federal ministries is governed by a separate regulation to the Business Service Portal Act (USPG) and functions very well. A common editorial team ensures adherence to quality standards when information is prepared.
Return on investmentReturn on investment: Not applicable / Not available
Organisational issues: One of the main lessons learned during the implementation phase was that organisational issues proved to be more important than technological issues i.e., the project should focus on users’ needs and co-operation and co-ordination between agencies and technology should not drive the project.
Distinction between informational and transactional services: In a one-stop shop that includes informational and transactional services, it is important to clearly know what the user can expect from the system, i.e. information about how to solve an obligation with the administration, or the possibility of carrying out this formality online. Providing attractive service to generate traffic on the portal is necessary, too.
Organisation based on life-events: The starting point for the implementation of the portal was the identification of 500 information obligations for businesses. Given such a high number of procedures it is very important to group them in life-events, rationalising their management.
For the single-sing-on functionality it was necessary to implement a central business register by the Statistics Austria which contains data provided by many different registers. In order to have a good quality of data on-going clearing processes are necessary.Scope: National