Researchers have developed and successfully tested an IT system to help put European public administrations on the same page in dealing with laborious cross-border information exchange. The aim was to find a better solution for public authorities working across different countries, to simplify the moving process for citizens.
The new software system and tools replace paper-based procedures and allow electronic documents to be retrieved from and distributed to any public administration connected to a network, efficiently and securely.
This improves communication links and transparency between European public administrations, such as between agents working in local/regional ‘citizen points’ and between the various verification authorities involved which can be located elsewhere.
Doing the public service shuffle
The partners in the European project, called InfoCitizen, succeeded on both the technological and organisational sides, suggests the coordinator Dirk Werth of the Institute for Information Systems at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Saarbrücken. "We proved that it is possible to create a citizen-friendly public space!"
Take the realistic scenario of Marco, an employee of a European company who moves from Schmelz in Germany to work at a subsidiary in Tres Cantos, Spain. Marco leaves his home in Germany and, arriving in Tres Cantos, goes to his local authority to register – only to be told he needs a previous residency certificate from the authorities in Germany.
But using InfoCitizen’s software should allow the civil servant in Tres Cantos to ‘de-register’ Marco from his municipality in Germany and ‘re-register’ him at his new residence in Spain. Problem solved. No need for additional, time-consuming trips or to ship the official documents. Marco can simply get on with adapting to his new life in Tres Cantos.
Marco’s story is one of a series of animations, created by the two-year InfoCitizen project to show how making it easier for public administrations across Europe to exchange and process official documents is vital to reaching Europe’s socio-economic targets.
InfoCitizen came up with systems architecture, guidelines and tools to help public administrations at all levels collaborate more efficiently. Cumbersome paper-based procedures are steadily phased out by software that handles the sort of information exchange that Marco needs – obtaining new residency, transferring social data and documentation, etc. – automatically.
The team has had particular success at solving the incompatibities existing between different European bureaucracies involved in the project trials in Greece, Spain, Italy and Germany.
"Initially, we were unsure whether it would be possible to harmonise procedures that different public administrations use," says Werth. "[Our] software solution, as a result, now includes processes not only at local but also regional and national level."
Each public administration uses its own software which cannot be changed easily, so InfoCitizen invested in a very adaptable software design. Looking at cross-border processes has proved that it is possible to create software infrastructure supporting any type of pan-European service provision.
The European dream needs the political and administrative clout to turn this citizen-centric vision into a reality, concludes Werth. A vision shared by InfoCitizen.