ePuap: a Polish approach to building a platform

ePUAP, the Polish electronic platform for public administration services, is a nationwide IT platform set up to allow citizens to communicate with public administrative bodies in a uniform, standard way. Its aim is clear: to make government services simpler, more available and at lower costs, and to cut red tape. Unfortunately, the existing quality and pace of distribution of electronic signatures and trusted profiles, as enabled by ePUAP, seem far from sufficient. Widespread adoption of electronic identities will therefore be based on a new and technically improved trusted profile.  

Policy Context

The ePUAP system is being developed in stages. The first of these, named ‘Development of the ePUAP Electronic Platform of Public Administration Services’, was carried out between January 2006 and October 2008. This formed part of Poland’s 2004–2006 Sector Operational Programme – Improvement of the Competitiveness of Enterprises, under Priority 1: ‘Enhancement of a knowledge-based economy business environment’, Measure 1.5: ‘Development of a system for entrepreneurs’ access to information and public services online’. The Centre for Digital Administration (CCA) is currently working on the ePUAP2 project, which will expand the functionality of the original ePUAP platform and increase the number of public services available online. The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development fund under the 2007–2013 Innovative Economy Operational Programme, Priority 7: ‘Information society – Establishment of electronic administration’.   EPUAP offers: • e-services for public administration; • the ability for citizens to handle their own administrative matters without leaving home; • the ability for public authorities to communicate electronically with both citizens and other authorities.   Services available on ePUAP cover administrative matters related to business activities, health, and job searches, among others.  

Description of target users and groups

The platform provides the technology infrastructure needed to provide services to citizens. Among the participants in ePUAP are units of both central and local government, including municipal offices. Initially ePUAP services were made available by various local government bodies. Currently, the service aims to ensure the availability of central services: those provided by various central authorities and accessible from anywhere in the country.   The most popular of the 150 or so services is the so-called general letter, which allows citizens to communicate with officials if there is no standard document available. The case is described in a simple letter, similar to an email, and any required supporting documents – such as scanned copies of payment receipts – can be added as annexes.   Other popular electronic forms available on ePUAP include: • application for a European Health Insurance Card; • application for an ID card; • notification of a lost or damaged ID card; • application for a copy of proof of marital status; • application for a copy or extracts from the register of land and buildings; • request to remove trees and shrubs; • notification of the sale of the vehicle.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Implementation of government services requires an efficient and user-friendly mechanism for identification and authentication. ePUAP provides one such mechanism in the form of the ePUAP trusted profile. Citizens can get an ePUAP trusted profile free of charge, and use it to identify and authenticate themselves on other ICT systems run by public entities, as well as on ePUAP itself. With a trusted profile, users can send legally valid electronic mail without the need for qualified signatures. The trusted profiles are based on SAML (single sign-on), which allows the same account to log on to multiple service providers.

The other services available to holders of trusted profiles are:

• online registration for unemployment benefit and job-seeking (praca.gov.pl);

• services related to economic activity, such as registering a company and filing tax returns (www.ceidg.gov.pl);

• services related to the social security system (ZUS) for both employers and citizens (www.pue.zus.pl);

• criminal record checks (“Certificate of Good Conduct” or Zaświadczenie o Niekaralności) (https://ekrk.ms.gov.pl/ep-web

 

Technology solution

The trusted profiles are based on SAML (single sign-on), which allows the same account to log on to multiple service providers.

Main results, benefits and impacts

A 2013 report by the OECD (Poland: Implementing Strategic-State Capability, Annex A, http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/governance/poland-implementing-strategic-state-capability_9789264201811-en#page249) notes that: “ePUAP, Poland’s joint public service delivery platform, does not seem to have caught on with citizens. … The availability and sophistication of Polish online services is somewhat below the OECD and EU average. There is only limited integration between the various online portals and the websites of the associated public authorities, fragmenting the user’s experience, even though progress is being made.” The OECD also points out that services such as electronic payments and e-commerce are not widely deployed in Poland.

In 2014, the minister of administration and digitization at that time, Rafał Trzaskowski, admitted that ePUAP “was not perfect, was not fully functional, did not respond to the needs of citizens.”

Officially, ePUAP currently (April 2016) has 1,237,934 active user accounts and 438,422 trusted profiles. 2,773,478 documents were sent through ePUAP in 2015. Other sources seem to indicate these figures are exaggerated. For instance, according to the news website wprost, only 350,000 people in Poland actually used ePUAP in February 2015. (https://www.wprost.pl/branze/492571/Wiecej-sieci-szerokopasmowych-wieksza-dostepnosc-do-e-uslug.html). Since then, however, the addition of more than 30 services might have sparked growth in the use of ePUAP.

Return on investment

Development and maintenance costs for the ePUAP platform were estimated at 98.4 million zloty (about 22 million euro) in March 2014. According to the OECD in 2013, “the significant use of EU Structural Funds for e-government roll-out does not seem to have translated into investments that have effectively and systematically supported its development in Poland.”

Track record of sharing

Poland’s activities in the realm of eGovernment have been well documented, and information on ePUAP is abundant. For instance, the platform has its own Polish Wikipedia entry (https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPUAP), and in February 2016 the Polish government published an updated list of its digital priorities in the report ‘Strategic Action Priorities of the Ministry of Digital Affairs in Computerization of Public Services’ (https://mc.gov.pl/files/directions_of_strategic_actions_of_the_minister_of_digital_affairs_in_the_field_of_computerization_of_public_services.pdf).

Lessons learnt

“We need to support the strategy for developing the information society combined with efficient coordination of this process”, writes the Ministry of Digital Affairs in the report referred to above. However, the Ministry says: “Shortcomings in this area (modern information and telecommunications technologies) in recent years have increased the distance between Poland and the leaders, both in Europe and globally”. The report also mentions “…a lack of consistent strategy, unclear regulation, bad practices and skill shortages delay implementation of Poland’s digitisation projects”. The Ministry confirmed that the role of the state is to develop faster, become more “friendly”, and support the needs of citizens, entrepreneurs, organisations and local government through digitisation.

According to the report, a single gateway to all public administration services will be developed on the basis of the portals obywatel.gov.pl and ePUAP. To support this, a uniform and safe standard of identification for citizens (eID) using public administration e-services should be introduced. As soon as possible, citizens should gain the ability to confirm their identity electronically in their contacts with the administration.

However, the report continues, the existing quality and pace of distribution of electronic signatures and trusted profiles, as enabled by ePUAP, are far from sufficient. Widespread adoption of electronic identities will therefore be based on a new and technically improved trusted profile, with verification based on the requirements of the EU’s eIDAS regulation.

It is unclear how soon these changes are to take place.

Scope: Local (city or municipality), National, Regional (sub-national)

Categorisation

Type of document
General case study
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