ERCIM News No.48, January 2002 [contents]
E-Government Programme in Hungary
by Erzsébet Csuhaj-Varjú
On 10 July 2001, Hungary introduced an electronic government programme. It was designed by the Office of the Government Commissioner in charge of Information Technology, a department of the Prime Ministers Office. The programme aims at integrating the strategies and IT development projects of various sectors and institutions in order to provide the citizens with better services.
The Office of the Government Commissioner in charge of Information Technology (otherwise known as the Government Commissioners Office for IT) was set up in the summer of 2000 to design and implement a uniform programme that cuts across boundaries between institutions and sectors, improves the service-providing capabilities of the state, and at the same time, satisfies the requirements of citizens. Accordingly, in 2001 and 2002 the office is coordinating a total of thirty-six programmes, to be implemented at seventeen public administration entities.
In May 2001, the Office issued Version 1.0 of the National Information Society Strategy (NISS). According to this strategy, one of the priority areas is the implementation of e-government. To ensure that the objectives formulated in the e-government programme satisfy the requirements of citizens, a series of public opinion polls, wide-ranging research and surveys preceded the drafting of the strategy. The Office also drew upon the European Unions analyses, guidelines and recommendations, as well as relevant documents of the OECD and other international organisations. The government has allocated approximately 48 million euro for the realisation of the programme during 2001 and 2002.
The two main objectives of the e-government programme are to provide citizen-friendly services and to improve the efficiency of internal operations according to its motto: a service-provider state in the service of its citizens. The increased efficiency of the offices is promoted by the improved utilisation of public registers, the rationalisation of IT developments, and the IT support of organisational functions, which will also result in cheaper operating costs for public administration. For these purposes, the necessary foundations and infrastructure must be created, the security of the government IT systems must be improved, and civil servants must be trained in the use of e-government applications and tools.
The expected result is a more efficient and transparent administration. The digitised basic registries will provide public information as if they were public utilities. A smart passport is planned, which will enable citizens to securely access governmental systems from home, work or any other wired environment. This single passport will replace half a dozen personal documents used for different functions. Citizens will have access to a steadily increasing number of services via the government portal. The programme will also improve the traditional methods of administration and people who do not have access to the Internet would also benefit from the electronic governance. In the first phase, the government portal will function as a compass, a starting point for finding public information. In the following phases, in addition, it will be a treasure trove of vital practical information, and will enable citizens to manage their administrative issues over the Internet. Moreover, it will facilitate communication between public administration, politicians and the public, and become a forum for public opinion. According to the programme, the first services will be available within a year from the announcement.
The above services would significantly help in the management of administrative issues, since Hungarian citizens spend around 18 million hours every year on administrative tasks. Although there are recent improvements in certain fields (eg, the issuing of passports), there still remain plenty of time-consuming, complicated and complex tasks, such as registering vehicles, issuing birth and marriage certificates, and determining maternity allowances.
Simultaneously, the efficiency of the traditional administration must be improved. Laying the foundations of electronic administration in government is also necessary, and this entails, among other things, the realisation of tasks concerning the development of standard electronic governmental document handling. Hungarys central public administration has already been fully computerised. Nearly 70% of its computers are networked, and all but a few ministries operate their own websites. However, most local governments and offices went their own way in this regard, resulting in the development of isolated systems. The electronic administration tools planned in the e-government programme will change this situation.
Rationalisation of public registers is also among the tasks ahead. This will lead to the replacement of uneconomical and uncoordinated registries by efficient and continuously updated central registries.
The Government Commissioners Office for IT periodically issues tender invitations and calls for project proposals to realise the programme. In autumn 2001, the successful applications were awarded approximately eight million euro.