A digital vision for government

Posted on: August 6, 2015 by Willem Beelen

Digital transformation is a top priority for businesses right across the private sector and now governments too are facing the challenge of responding to increasing digital demands from citizens.



Governments across Europe are making a statement and putting their best digital foot forward. For example, Denmark launched an eGovernment strategy with the aim of accelerating the use of ICT and welfare technology in frontline public services delivery. Similarly, the UK is leading the way in digital public services with gov.uk. In my role at Atos, I get a front-row seat for the developments in this area in the Netherlands.

Dutch Government Digital by 2017

The Dutch government has ambitious plans to strengthen its digital public services by 2017. The aim is a transparent government that provides opportunities for better service delivery and exchange of information; a government that places citizens and businesses at the centre of the flow of information, and is able to act as a central, unified body offering integrated, digital public services. At the core, we need a single, secure and cost-efficient General Digital Infrastructure (GDI); one digital infrastructure to unite the Netherlands’ 11 ministries, 12 provinces, 23 water boards, 393 districts and many executive organisations, offering continuity for people and businesses.

But there are challenges that need to be addressed first to enable the continuous development of the GDI: what services and organisations can be involved, who makes the decisions and how will it be financed? On top of that, it’s about stimulating the uptake of the platform amongst businesses in the private sector, as well as achieving acceptance and trust from citizens.

Other challenges lie in security, with government organisations facing increasing cyber threats to their systems. One of the biggest digital government services currently in use is DigiD, a digital authentication and identification platform for online access which is managed by Atos. Over 12 million people and 500 public and private organisations - e.g. (healthcare) insurance companies, pension funds and banks - are connected to DigiD. There would be significant repercussions if the security of this system was compromised. Key areas of development therefore concern reliability and avoiding a single point of failure, further integrating public and private sector and encouraging acceptance around digital public services amongst the wider public and business world.

Realising a General Digital Infrastructure

Having a true GDI means the government can significantly increase the efficiency of its public services offering, saving time and money on paper documentation and communication. For citizens, the benefits lie in speed and ease of use and extension of existing digital public services.

This is the reason our Chief Digital Officer, Bas Eenhoorn, and his department embarked on a project last year to drive the single digital infrastructure for Dutch government, reporting directly into the Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. Eenhoorn’s mission is for citizens and businesses, as desired, to be able to make use of digital services for all government related business in a quick, easy, secure and reliable manner.

A whole variety of initiatives are taking place at the moment to improve and encourage digital public services, including ‘Digital by 2017’, the Digital (Cities) calendar, the nine public-private break-through ICT projects (e.g. the ‘Total Digital’ initiative) and Government services by 2020. For each of these initiatives, a well-functioning and robust GDI is essential for success.

Digital Belgium

In Belgium, similar initiatives are taking place. In April this year the federal government kicked off Digital Belgium, striving to push the country into the top three of the European Digital Economy and Society Index by setting priorities across infrastructure, the economy, skills, security and public services.

This initiative is being pushed forward by Deputy Prime Minister and digital advocate, Alexander De Croo, who intends to trial free mobile internet on the weekends to encourage those who have yet to try it to do so. By 2020, digital must be the norm according to De Croo, whereby all public services are organised through one digital portal.

It’s clear that digital government isn’t just a public issue anymore, but a truly societal matter. There are many exciting projects happening across Europe, and I for one look forward to see what is coming next.

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About Willem Beelen
Responsible for business development in the public sector, healthcare and wellbeing
Willem Beelen has been working in the ICT sector for over 30 years and has an extensive network within the public sector. Using this knowledge and experience, Willem is responsible for business development in the public sector, healthcare and wellbeing. His work consists of relation management, co-writing and reviewing (Best Value Procurement) public tenders, using ICT as an enabler and making use of the collective international knowledge, experience and expertise of Atos employees. In addition to his role at Atos, Willem is the editor in chief of the magazine GOV, a key magazine in his field.

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