Smart Country News
September 20, 2019
Interview with the Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Jonas Semaška
More than 90 per cent of all administrative formalities are carried out online and a company can be set up in three days - this works in Lithuania. We talked to Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Jonas Semaška about digital administration and the upcoming Smart Country Convention.
1. You have been ambassadors in Germany since 2017. What experience have you had so far with the administration in Germany?
Public administration in Germany works well. But since this is a large bureaucratic apparatus, the individual processes take quite a long time. Lithuania has had good experiences with the digitalisation of administration, we were able to simplify many bureaucratic processes and make them more convenient for users - both citizens and companies. Thanks to digitisation, the state can save money and personnel and make long processes more efficient.
2. In Lithuania, public administration has been functioning digitally for a long time. How did Lithuania do it?
Next year we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian independence. The fact that today we are one of the fastest growing economies in Europe has also been contributed to by the digitalization of public administration, which enables and promotes the rapid development of the state. We want to continue to adhere to this and do not intend to slow the pace.
Today in Lithuania we have long stopped looking at how public administration can be digitised and are considering how we can further improve the use of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and blockchain technologies. We have a number of initiatives - such as GovTechLab, Security Operating Center (SOC) Services or Electronic Services for Registration of Legal Entities (JAREP) - to help citizens and businesses access public services. With us, e-prescriptions issued by doctors are no longer a novelty. Today we get many certificates without leaving home, many processes have become a few clicks on the home sofa. This contributes to a more effective distribution of resources and faster economic growth.
3. In contrast to Lithuania, there are still many reservations about digitisation in Germany, especially when it comes to data protection. What do you attribute to the fact that your country is so open to digitisation?
In Lithuania, digitisation has been considered from the outset, so citizens are used to it quite differently. But, of course, security and data protection should always have top priority, that is the only way the state can function in the digital space. Cyber security plays a major role in Lithuania, where we are one of the best countries in the world and recognised for our solutions. This gives citizens confidence that their data is protected and secure. We are convinced that our solutions can also help Germany to dare more digitisation. The most important thing for successful digitisation is to have a very good infrastructure. The German infrastructure has room for improvement, for example in terms of broadband expansion. Digitization needs a fast and high-quality network throughout the country.
4. What example of digitisation would you give that makes your everyday life easier in practice?
In Lithuania, we have pushed ahead with many solutions that make everyday life easier for citizens, the economy and state authorities. A huge relief is, for example, the simple online filing of income tax returns.
Lithuania was also one of the first countries in Europe to reduce the red tape involved in having children. It enables parents to manage all formalities online after the birth of the child. When documents still needed to be physically managed, parents needed an average of about five hours to complete the process, now they can do it online in just half an hour.
The economy is also benefiting from e-services, and the administrative burden has been significantly reduced. You can start a business online, pay and declare taxes and register new employees online. This reduces both the time and effort required for company administration and for the state authorities.
The positive effects of digitisation are clear and have a positive impact on all areas of life.
5. Lithuania is a partner country of the Smart Country Convention. What will you show at the Smart Country Convention? What are you looking forward to?
We are very happy to be the partner country of this great event, which is a great honour for Lithuania. In the exhibition we will present solutions for cyber security, e-government and smart cities on our stand. Our solutions are not only used in Lithuania itself - the "Digital Lithuania" cluster brings together companies whose experience is recognized and applied in Europe and worldwide. The aim of the Digital Lithuania cluster is to be a model for successful digitisation and to share this experience. We hope that the companies presenting themselves at the Smart Country Convention will find new contacts and opportunities for cooperation and networking with German representatives and public administrations in other countries.