On December 1st 2006, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the draft of a law governing the electronic access of citizens to public administrations. This text establishes the right of the public to such access and, at the same time, the obligation of all Spanish administrative bodies to provide it. State administrations will have to enforce these provisions by 2008, other government offices by 2010.
Once the law comes into effect, Spaniards will be able to conduct their affairs with any government office at any time of the day or year.
For those who lack the resources or a knowledge of electronic access, internet points and telephone call centres will be available so that they, too, can enjoy the benefits of remote access.
Data security and systems interoperability will be assured and, rather than expect the public to answer extensive questionnaires, administrations will present and share the information they already possess.
Internet, television, mobile and fixed-line phones
The measures are aimed at saving people’s time and money, and at streamlining administrative processes by doing away with the need to present paper documents to authorities.
In the future, any business carried out electronically will be just as valid as if conducted by traditional methods, such as by letter or face-to-face meeting.
All Spanish administrative bodies will be obliged to offer citizens the chance to conduct business via internet, television, mobile and fixed-line phones (using the 060 number) and other electronic means.
"This new law, which takes into account the multiplicity of government services, is designed to provide a complete and coherent service across the board," says Juan Miguel Márquez Director General of Administrative Modernization of the Spanish Ministry of Public Administrations. "It not only puts the focus on the legal environment for eGovernment, it also defines the infrastructures and services that will have to be introduced to make the concept universally effective."
Increased public awareness in Spain of the benefits of eGovernment is prompting a growing spirit of cooperation by all involved. At the same time, developing the tools to make the concept viable for everyone is a challenging task. The first requirement is a robust communications infrastructure, a requirement that will be met by Spain’s SARA network, which is a natural evolution of the administrative internet. Work is currently underway to extend the SARA bandwidth to 100 Mbits/second.
Equally important is an electronic identity, authentication and signature system that protects the privacy and rights of the citizens. eID cards are now being issued by Spain’s Interior Ministry in over 20 provinces, and the system should be available countrywide by 2008.
Introducing the new draft law, Spain’s Council of Ministers stated: "the law responds to the needs of citizens in the 21st century, our country’s economic priorities and the necessary modernization of our administration." The introduction of this law means that Spain joins the small group of countries that already have legislation to protect their citizens’ digital rights: the United States, Finland, France, Austria and Italy.
The policy adopted by Spain’s Ministry of Public Administrations and supported by the country’s other ministries reflects the objectives set down by IDABC in its eGovernment strategy. Key aspects are ensuring Spain’s integration with similar initiatives in the EU, linking national services with EU networks in the fields of justice, interior affairs and social security, transferring information technology know-how to national level (e.g. the TESTA - Trans European Services for Telematics between Administrations – interoperability project), and drawing on services developed by IDABC such as CIRCA/CIRCABC.