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European Commision’s eGovernment Plan to Boost Services by 50% should be Complemented with an Investment in Skills Development

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Plans to increase access to essential online government services are crucial for a streamlined and inclusive digital Europe, provided that individuals possess the skills to unlock their maximum benefits

22nd December 2010

With the eGovernment Action Plan 2011 – 2015, which is a complementary initiative to the progressive Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission (EC), by facilitating steps to be taken by Member States, aims to: empower citizens and businesses; reinforce mobility in the Single Market; and to enable efficiency and effectiveness.

According to the EC:

“The Action Plan aims at maximising the complementarities of national and European policy instruments. Its actions support the transition of eGovernment into a new generation of open, flexible and collaborative seamless eGovernment services at local, regional, national and European level that will empower citizens and businesses”.

Through the development of an environment which promotes interoperability of systems and certain key enablers, the EC envisages an ambitious take-up in the number of Europeans using eGovernment services by 2015 – the target envisaged for all citizens is 50%, with a target of 80% for businesses.

These aims are commendable, and are in principle welcomed by ECDL Foundation; the empowerment of individuals and communities through improved access to essential online services through the proficient use of ICT are integral to its aims. However, if Europeans do not possess the required skills to access these services, investment made to improve their availability – both at Member State and EU level – will not be maximised. This point is reinforced by the fact that despite extensive broadband penetration, some 30% of Europeans have never used the Internet, and according to the EC, “In many cases the take-up gap is due to lack of user skills such as digital and media literacy".

ECDL Foundation believes that greater efforts should be made to embed ICT skills and training programmes into educational curricula and lifelong learning schemes, and that greater efforts should be made in the support of awareness raising of improved digital literacy, and effective ICT training and certification outside formal education systems. These measures will aid in the creation of a more inclusive Europe where all citizens possess the prerequisite skills to be able to unlock the potential benefits offered through improved eGovernment, and other essential online services.