The digitization of the German administration is a done deal. It is clear that political leadership over the creation of digital structures and services in public authorities and town halls is lacking. The coalition partners CDU/CSU and SPD, for once and for all, agree, so let's get down to business, because the burden of bureaucracy seems to float over the heads of those responsible without the necessary electronic administration like the Damocles sword.
Snow White and Sleeping Germany
In the past, you might have wanted to, but for whatever reason, you couldn't. Estonia and Denmark have taken full advantage of the snow-white sleep of the Germans and are far ahead with digital services for their citizens. Austrians, Swiss and Dutch can also choose from the wide range of digital municipal services. Only with us the worm is still inside with a few exceptions. The German government has stipulated that the most important of the 500 services offered by German offices should be in the digital starting blocks by 2022. Citizens' portals for citizens and businesses should now direct it and catapult the municipalities from the back midfield to the very top of the European digitisation rankings.
Hamburg storms forward
"Digital First" is the name of the Hamburg platform, which already offers dozens of services for Hamburg citizens. Some of them are local resident certificates as well as urban land-use planning, business announcements and aircraft noise complaints, the flagpole of possibilities is far from being reached. Digital First extends what is already available and offers a service account, a P.O. box and a payment function. It is also possible to connect to other IT systems via Digital First. In the future, you may not be able to go to the residents' registration office or the vehicle registration office. Identity cards can be applied for, relocations can be reported, a police clearance certificate can be requested or birthday and death notifications can be made.
Stuttgart in the fast lane
Stuttgart is one of the exceptional cities in Germany. The city is currently undergoing a massive changeover from paper and visitor traffic to digital services. Simplifying is the magic word and all administrative procedures should soon be a thing of the past. The time of writing letters is over, everything should be possible from the home chair. Keywords such as citizen portal, user account for private individuals and companies as well as the transfer of data from authority to authority, with the consent of the person concerned, suggest intelligent, cross-agency networking. In the end, this saves time and money and creates real added value for the citizen. "The city's new website, stuttgart.de, is scheduled for completion in 2019," reports administrative mayor Fabian Mayer. All offices and departments are included in the concept. In addition, the company's own operations and staff representatives will also play a role. The goal is to increase service quality through e-government.
Following the motto of Mr. Hoppenstedt, Minister of State in the Chancellery, procedures, forms and proofs must be simplified. The coordinator for bureaucracy reduction believes that this would create the digital first-aider for administration from the already positively evaluated administrative apparatus. Jealous squinting at neighbouring European countries would then be eliminated and Germany would also be where it belongs in e-government: at the top of Europe.
"Digital communities of the future" and Co.
"Improving quality of life through digital services" is the criterion by which the CDU Minister of the Interior, Thomas Strobl, measures the digital communities of the future. Karlsruhe has landed at the very top with the so-called citizen app and was awarded together with Ludwigsburg, Ulm and Heidelberg. The app informs about the urban life of the Baden metropolis. The Ludwigsburger administration goes the way of the citizen account, which is used as a digital interface to all services. Ulm is in the process of digitally networking two residential districts and has received a great deal of applause for this. In Heidelberg in the Palatinate region of Germany, the administration is pragmatically approaching digital benefits. The administration collects traffic data via a citizen portal and can transport gritting vehicles to potentially icy danger points in frosty winter weather. In summary, all the municipalities mentioned contribute with creative proposals to improved digital usage concepts.
Germany is just waking up
It's only a matter of time before the German slow train becomes a high-speed train. A current study by the EU Commission puts Germany in 20th place out of 28 in terms of digital administration. Compared to other EU countries, there are still major deficits in digitization. However, the race for electronic service diversity has long since begun in Germany. According to its own understanding, Hamburg plays a pioneering role and the ideas of Baden-Württemberg's cities also invite imitation. Hamburg will be launching its "Digital First" platform in the autumn. Other municipalities will follow in giant steps. In terms of German efficiency and the ambition to bring the administration to the top of the European digital service providers, the lead of Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands is likely to have melted quickly. Time is running out and things can only get better for Germany.