The summer decision strengthening the role of the DISIC with respect to the consistency and modernization of government information systems; the announcement from the Secretary of State for government reform and simplification, Thierry Mandon, in the Council of Ministers, on the strategy of the government to make digital a tool for modernising government: are we (finally?) witnessing the launch of a comprehensive and coherent nation-wide public digital ecosystem, long desired by all stakeholders?
The Secretary of State’s pronouncements and his personal commitment are encouraging signs that deserve highlighting:
– The existence of a single government information system, called “Réseau Interministériel de l’Etat” (RIE), unifying the digital platforms of all ministries and « ensuring the government continues to function in the event of a serious Internet disruption.” The RIE will serve as the “first step in the modernisation and unification of the government’s digital network». From early 2015, it is expected to provide a secure broadband Internet access and interconnectivity between government networks and services.
– Mobilisation of funds from the “Programme d’Investissement d’Avenir”, established to modernise government, to “foster innovative initiatives”.
– Simplification of the Public Procurement Procedures, which will allow companies to bid for public sector contracts with their single Siret number. In the initial phase, this scheme will apply to national government contracts under €134,000 and to local and regional government contracts under €207,000, excluding taxes.
– A comprehensive policy for public data under the leadership of newly appointed Chief Data Officer Henri Verdier, of Etalab, modelled on the American position of Chief Data Officer.
– The rapid transition to paperless communications between public administrations and the citizenry by adopting, within a period of two months, an order that allows referrals to the administration by simple e-mail.
– Commitment to 100% digitisation of government services within one year (excluding when physical presence is mandatory).
This digital transformation is above all a paradigm shift whose impact goes well beyond the political press release. This initiative will not only put digital at the heart of government, it will establish digital as the fundamental vehicle for services, not simply an ancillary budget concern of MAP/RGPP, as before.
A sweeping change in the government’s online philosophy will accompany this digital transformation: a defining characteristics of this updated approach will be that, for the first time, digital will no longer bow to the existing parameters of government structure but rather the opposite. The goal is for government to serve as a “flexible platform”, “a one-stop destination for the procurement of services”, where resources are freely shared between internal administrations.
As a result, the strategy put forth by Thierry Mandon in the form of France Connect has matter-of-factly laid the foundation for a policy of online identification of visitors to government websites. While it remains premature to speak of a “digital identity” of the citizenry, France Connect represents, despite delays and setbacks (CNIe), the government’s preferred method for reaching this objective. France Connect embodies a “secure and unequivocal authentication and identification system.” After beta testing in early 2015, the system is set to play a crucial role in data exchange moving forward, with the added benefit of falling within the existing constraints of EU regulation for electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions (eIDAS). These initial steps go hand-in-hand with the likely changes on the horizon for stakeholders involved in the policy of identity management at agencies such as CNIL and NIR, especially with respect to healthcare. As such, we are paying particular attention to the Council of State’s excellent proposal in its annual survey on digital and human rights pertaining to the creation of an arbitrary NIR.
Certainly, the government’s digital strategy inspires and, as such, it will be judged in light of these high hopes.