The European governments with the best digital | online services

19 December 2017 7 min. read

The project to provide a broad range of digital services to citizens and businesses across the EU is in full swing. A new report benchmarks how far various member states and governments are in the digitalisation of public services.

As part of the European Commission’s eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020, EU member states are urged to improve the way how they digitally interact with citizens, customers, vendors and the wider society. In its Digital Single Market vision, the EC emphasises the need to strive towards “open, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, interoperable, personalised, user-friendly, end-to end digital public services to all citizens and businesses – at all levels of public administration.”

In realising the transition, member states are advised to grow their digital maturity across three key pillars. Modernisation of public administration refers to the adoption of key government enablers such as electronic identification, electronic documents, authentic sources, and Single Sign On, supported by a lean and user-centric digital operating model. Enabling cross-border mobility with interoperable digital public services is the second fundament. “Cross-border public services are considered the backbone for the effective functioning of the EU Single Market, as they facilitate cross-border mobility, thus enabling access to markets, boosting competitiveness and attractiveness of the EU as a place to live and invest in,” according to the EC.

The third pillar focuses on the facilitation of digital interaction between citizens/business and administrations. Main goal is to increase exchange in the design process of high-quality public services, as well as sparking further opportunities for knowledge, growth and job creation.

Ranking of member states

To better understand how member states, at various levels, are performing, the EC commissioned Capgemini Consulting, among others, to develop a benchmark against which they can be ranked. The research is based on four key metrics: user centricity, key enablers, transparency and cross-border mobility, and is based on an analysis of over 10,000 websites across the EU28+ countries.

Across all member states, the research found that user centricity, whereby the availability and usability of eServices are considered as well as barriers to use, was found to be the most ubiquitous, with a score of 80% – with both the availability of services online and the usability of the services noted as high. The average for mobile friendliness is however lagging behind, with an overall score of only 54%. “Although still relatively low, European public adminis­trations seem to be responding, albeit rather slowly, to the increased demand for mobile accessible services by the cus­tomers, as ‘mobile’ has been establishing itself as preferred access channel for Internet users,” write the researchers.

In terms of cross-border mobility, for citizens and businesses – whereby services are accessible for people in different member states – around 2/3 of benchmarked public services offered has user-friendly services. Services for businesses were found to be slightly (65%) more accessible than citizen services (61%).

Key enablers were the lowest scored, reflecting their relative recent addition to the wider spectrum of capabilities. Transparency, meanwhile, is relatively well scored, in part due to its importance in the wider rollout of eGovernment related services – it remains a key enabler of trust within, and across borders.

Availability of services per country

Digitisation of life events

The study also sought to identify how four ‘life events’ performed across different frameworks and capabilities deployed by the various governments. The life events are business related (starting a business), family related (baseline for future studies), work related (losing and finding a job) and study related (following a study).

Malta, with under 450,000 inhabitants one of Europe’s smallest countries, is similar to last year punching above its weight, holding the spot. Denmark ranks as number two, with strong performances in each of the four categories – particularly in studying and business. Sweden, at number three overall, has a strong performance in business, and study, but, relatively weaker performances in family and job scores. Estonia and Norway round off the top five, with the former scoring well in the job category, while the latter has a strong performance in its business score.

The Netherlands seems to have set a stronger focus on services targeted at job seekers and students, whereas Sweden and Norway are more strongly targeting business customers. Austria and Portugal depict a higher emphasis on catering to the needs of job seek­ers as well as businesses. At the same time, Iceland, France and Poland have set a strong focus on enabling modernisation of services of jobseekers. The bottom scores are reserved for Russia and Greece. 

The UK has a relatively weak performance, scoring below the EU28 average overall. In particular the score is low in study, job and family – all at or below 50%, while business performance is relatively robust at more than 75%. “The challenge for the UK in climbing up the ranks is to implement the very smart digital initiatives which it has developed, increase the availability of key enablers such as electronic identification and authentication sources, where other countries have already made steps forward,” said Niels van der Linden, Principal Consultant and project lead at Capgemini Consulting. 

Services made available

The research in addition explored the services made available by various countries in the EU28, as well as the wider average across the region. Malta again tops the score, with high levels of automation, at more than 10% of service, as well as a wide availability of services through a portal – at around 98%. Portugal followed, at around 95% of services available through a portal, while Denmark, Norway and Austria rounded off the top five – each with high levels of online availability and varying levels of automation.

Online availability of services

The UK scored around the EU28 average in terms of availability, with around 60% of services online through a portal, while a relatively low number of services were found to not be available. Overall, the benchmark found that most member states had online availability in excess of 50%, with only Greece, Croatia and Romania scoring particularly poorly.

Commenting on the key findings of the research, Niels van der Linden said: “The research shows positive signs and the recent Tallinn Ministerial Declaration is testament to the fact that the public sector takes digital transformation seriously. Governments now need to challenge the way they are organised, upskill their civil servants, and in general increase their openness to really benefit from the public value that can be created through digital services.”

According to a recent report from the European Commission, completing the Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion per year to Europe's economy, create jobs and significantly improve public services. “Technology offers public administrations huge opportunities to create public value,” said Dinand Tinholt, Vice President at Capgemini Consulting. He added though that transitioning to an eGovernment is more than just a digital strategy, “it’s about delivering on those opportunities, while looking forward to integrating new technologies such as artificial intelligence into public service delivery.”