European Semester report

The Role of Digital Government in the European Semester process 2018

After undergoing a significant overhaul, the new edition of the European Semester report has been completed. As part of the National Interoperability Framework Observatory project, a comprehensive study is performed on annual basis to provide a check-up on the health of the modernisation process of public administrations in Europe. In particular, the study seeks to assess how the European Semester, which is the cycle of EU economic and fiscal policy coordination established in 2010, is addressing the issues related to the promotion of digital government and how the European Commission Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT), through its ISA² programme actions, can help in this endeavour. This exercise in turn helps DIGIT identify and address the key trends affecting the digitisation of public administration in Europe, and at a different level, it also helps identify strategies and processes to tackle common challenges faced by the different Member States.

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To provide this comprehensive picture on the state of digital government development in the EU, the report proposes a three-pronged analysis process, focusing on providing a qualitative analysis for three sets of documents for every EU Member State: a) the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) issued through the European Semester process, b) the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) devised by Member States to address their CSRs, and ultimately c) Member States’ national Operational Programmes (OPs) to analyse how EU countries plan to use EU funds to promote the development of digital government, and specifically how they individually address European Structural and Investment Funds’ Thematic Objectives 2  (Enhancing access to, and use and quality of ICT) and 11 (Improving the efficiency of public administration).

Following the initial qualitative analysis, the study subsequently elaborates a country-by-country view of the main digital government developments in every EU Member State. This in turn helps provide a broad view of the latest developments in digital government within the EU in a subsequent section, capturing the main trends in this area, such as the development of electronic skills, the implementation of eJustice measures or eProcurement. In addition to the analysis of the latest digital government developments, the study further provides a snapshot of Member States’ socio-economic situation together with an assessment of how it may be affected by the implementation of digital government measures in key sectors such as healthcare and education.

Following the compilation of the main commonalities across the strategic documents and Member States, the analytical work subsequently draws four policy conclusions answering to the research questions the study undertook to answer. These recommendations include for example, the special delivery of targeted trainings to Member States when implementing their digital government strategies (Recommendation #1) or the integration of public service governance through the share of good practices (Recommendation #4).

A few new features make this new edition of the study stand apart from previous versions. These include an increased focus on the impacts of digital government and digitisation more broadly at the citizen level, and how it affects the private sector’s operations. Moreover, specific attention has been added to the overall look and feel of the study, which now incorporates more user-friendly graphs and icons for visual representation. Overall, the study explains more clearly the European Semester process, which in turn helps a non-expert audience grasp better the key concepts and the main challenges addressed by this study. Finally, Thematic Objectives 2 and 11 are separated more clearly, which in turn made the analysis of the various documents more effective and easier to synthesise.

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