E-government challenges: Register modernisation, once-only principle and portal network in digital administration

There has long been talk in Germany that progress in e-government was not fast enough. The conditions may have changed after the constitutional reform in 2017. Art. 91 c (5) Grundgesetz permits the federal legislature to regulate the “general informational access to the administrative services of the federal government and federal states” by law. Those who in future visit the page www.bund.de will not only find calls to tender and job adverts of the federal government, but also the entire service catalogue of a digital administration.

Apart from the constitutional law requirements of Art. 91 c (5) Grundgesetz and the interpretation of the Online Access Act (OZG), very specific implementation questions will arise:

• How should inter-federal cooperation in future be configured in organisational law terms?
• What would a joint GDPR-compliant data protection concept look like?
• What functions can and should the new citizen's account perform?
• How can Germany embed the portal association in a proposed “single digital gateway” of the EU?
• How can the portal network of all federal levels (Portalverbund) do justice to user expectations in an optimal manner?
• How can innovation potential in administration, civil society, industry and academia be optimally bundled to support creative, contemporary and convincing e-government solutions from prototype to the final stage?
• Can new technologies (such as blockchain technology or artificial intelligence) solve previously unsolved problems?

The Portalverbund is an important anchor, but not in itself adequate for comprehensive e-government: Cross-cutting questions related to the digitalisation of public administration as such arise. An important precondition for a working e-government is identification and authentication of the user as well as long-term archiving and time stamp services of digital contents. The (destructive) digitalisation of analogue documents must also be borne in mind.

Moreover, the administration has to convince citizens to trust e-government and actually use it. On the one hand, it must in particular ensure that citizens' data is adequately protected. For example, it is important that the state establishes high data protection standards in extensive e-government projects, for example, undertaking innovative and data protection compliant consent management.

The methods that the state can use to inspire citizens to make use of digital administrative services are manifold. Orders and prohibitions, as in the electronic tax declaration, are one method – more important and in tune with the times are others: behavioural control possibilities in particular are on the agenda. “E-government nudging” could be very important for the future of e-government services that enjoy wide acceptance. Another aspect of legal and technical control is the question how the administration will in future deal with risk management – for example in tax proceedings. How does risk management software have to be configured to ensure efficient and simultaneously privacy protective control of particular cases?

Another area where the programme area has been engaged in early on was the topic of register modernisation. The project will bundle and further develop the previous preliminary work. The central questions are:

• Under what conditions may the administration introduce corporate and personal identifiers to interlink existing registers with each other, compare them with each other or even to carry out a register-based census? What legal requirements have to be taken into account?

• What other regulatory means are available to improve the statistical work of the state?


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Prof. Dr. Mario Martini


 Carsten Berger