Over a decade ago, European Union (EU) Member States committed, in a joint statement, to the creation of a pan-European network of contact points where citizens and businesses could obtain information about conducting business in a given country. In Hungary, the key role of this network is played by a central administration portal called Client Gate.
European network of contact points
The European Services Directive obliges EU Member States to simplify all the procedures involved in starting and carrying out a service activity. A key element in the implementation process of the Directive is the creation of a European network of ‘points of single contact’ (PSCs) where future entrepreneurs and existing businesses can easily obtain all relevant information on the business and legal environment of any specific country. These contact points are established by all EU Member States, typically in electronic form but also in the form of physical offices located in different regions of the country. Entrepreneurs and enterprises can use these portals to get detailed information about conducting business abroad and on completing administrative formalities concerning the establishment of a business or a cross-border provision of services.
An important step towards a less bureaucratic public administration in Hungary was the establishment of the system of physical points of single contact in January 2011. These are called Government Windows. In the autumn of 2015, there will be around 300 physical PSCs in Hungary, with the majority located in railway stations or post offices. The physical PSC makes it easier for citizens to personally administer their affairs and draws on the electronic solutions available through the central electronic PSC portal. As of 2015, approximately 300 different procedures can be administered at Government Windows.
Description of target users and groups
EU Member States are encouraged to develop a second generation of PSCs, which should cover all the procedures during a business’s life cycle, be multilingual and be more user-friendly (including their physical appearance).
In Hungary, the first activities in the field of eGovernment started around 2000. In 2003, the country launched the Magyarorszag.hu (Hungary.hu) portal, which built on the successes of the original eKormanyzat.hu (eGovernment.hu) website.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Client Gate as a contact point in Hungary
Client Gate (Ügyfélkapu) (https://ugyfelkapu.magyarorszag.hu/) is the most widely used and most essential eGovernment application in Hungary. It has been the country’s official central electronic administration web portal since 2005.
An account in the Client Gate system can either be opened in person, e.g. at the Central Office for Administrative and Electronic Public Services or at any of the Document Offices, or online, provided the applicant has a qualified digital signature. Authentication is based on a login name and a password, which remains valid for two years. Users provide their existing e-mail address.
After confirming the registration via e-mail, Client Gate can be used for the administration of personal affairs and communication with authorities. Certain administrative procedures can be administered entirely online via Client Gate (e.g. annual tax returns); it is also possible to arrange an appointment at one of the physical one-stop-shops (Government Window, PSC). The procedures available are:
services for employers and employees;
personal annual tax declaration and company tax declaration;
company registration (through an attorney-at-law);
permission related to environmental protection.
In 2015, Client Gate had around 2 million registered users, and more than 2 000 forms were available for download, with tax declaration, notifications, account services, healthcare and social status, and company registration inquiries being the most popular. New services and forms are continually made available.Technology choice: Open source software
Main results, benefits and impacts
The National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary (NTCA) is an independent government authority ensuring the lawful, efficient and effective collection of taxes, duties, contributions and customs duties and other related activities. It provides services not only to Hungarian citizens but also to other EU citizens who conduct business in Hungary or file their tax returns there. Electronic communication (e.g. tax declaration) is handled by Client Gate.
The government commissioned the compilation of a database of typical life situations that can be addressed through Client Gate. Part of this knowledge base contains procedures for PSC staff, including instructions on how to proceed in various situations in order to see cases through to their resolution. Overall, more than 2 500 life situations are available, which were divided into 21 categories, such as births, marriages, retirement, deaths, the beginning of studies, job search, establishment of a company, tax agenda, ownership rights, social dues and consumer protection. The first version of the knowledge base was delivered to PSC staff in 2013, and most life situations were listed on the country’s main web portal: https://ugyintezes.magyarorszag.hu. A dedicated portal (http://www.etudasportal.gov.hu/) is available for the training required by state employees.
Users of the https://magyarorszag.hu portal can also seek help using a special phone line and an email support system, which operate 24/7. They can ask specific questions and expect to receive answers, which enhances the transparency and credibility of the government.
Further development of eGovernment technologies and services
A major governmental goal is to establish a modern digital infrastructure in the country. It is the government’s intention that every household should have Internet access of at least 30 Mbps and at least half of all households should have access to100Mbps or faster by 2018.
The National Telecommunications Backbone Network (NTG) is a secure countrywide broadband network, which forms the basic infrastructure of eGovernment in Hungary. Launched in 2012 with the upgrade of the former Electronic Government Backbone (EKG – launched in 2004), this high-speed network connects the 19 county seats with Budapest, providing the central administration, as well as regional institutions, with a secure and monitored communication infrastructure that supports data communication, Internet access, electronic mail, government Intranet and other services.
The pillar of digital economy comprises the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in the narrower sense, electronic (commercial, bank, etc.) services, and corporate information technology (IT) systems, as well as the stimulation of research and development (R&D) and innovation activities. The goal is to double the number of persons receiving ICT education as well as the value of exports in the area of software and IT services by 2020, compared to current values.
In the field of digital competences, the most important task is to develop the digital skills of citizens, enterprises (primarily small and medium-size enterprises) and public administration employees. The major aspiration is that the rate of the digitally illiterate among the adult population should be reduced to 40 % by 2016 and to 30 % by 2020, and that the indicator of regular Internet use should reach 65 % by 2016. According to the target values set in the strategy, 90 % of micro and small enterprises could have Internet access by 2016 and 99 % by 2020. The use of eGovernment services should therefore increase, but the infrastructure needs to be in place for the growth.