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EC calls on political bosses to tear down e-gov barriers

'Mindsets and rigidity of administrations'

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The "mindsets and rigidity of administrations" are the greatest barriers to implementing effective e-government, Erkii Liikanen, EC commissioner in charge of IT policy, said today.

Opening the EC's eGovernment 2003 conference today at Lake Como, Italy, the commissioner called upon politicians "at the highest level" to commit themselves to eGovernment and lead by example in overcoming internal resistance to political reform (so when will Tony Blair get his first email address?).

eGovernment cannot be led by the IT department, Liikanen proclaimed. Removing the barriers will require "a change in the way we think and the way we work. Putting the citizen first and creating a culture of service will in many instances mean reforming the public sector."

Liikanen is a techno-optimist. He characterises technology as a tool for public sector reform, and a method to improve governance. eGovernment will enable open administration, better accountability and services for all, according to Liikanen In his speech he quotes Manuel Castells: "The Internet can be used by citizens to watch their governments - rather than by governments to watch their citizens." True enough, but this goes against the grain somewhat of the natural inclination of governments, even in mature democracies, to do the watching.

The EC is keen to promote Europe-wide online services. At the conference it is to release a working paper outlining a framework for interoperability of back-office processes between the Member States and with the European Institutions. The framework is to be available for comments from September.

The text of Liikanen's speech is here.

Today the EC also announced the http://www.europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/03/954|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display=">winners of the eEurope awards for eGovernment 2003. ®

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