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Press Release

October 26, 2021

Germans want their town to speed up online services

 A majority say their town or municipality’s online services are lagging behind

 Four out of five citizens want to visit their local authority online

 Two-thirds see the Online Access Act failing to meet its implementation date

 The two-day Smart Country Convention starts today

Whether the issue is efficiency in local government or smart transport, a majority of Germans think their town’s online services are lagging behind. Four out of five (86 per cent) want local government to step up the digital transformation. In 2020, 78 per cent wanted their town or municipality to make a greater effort and speed up the transformation, compared with 69 per cent in 2019. Three out of five (62 per cent) respondents said their town’s online services lagged behind. A little more than two-thirds (36 per cent) said their municipality had made good progress with digitisation. These are the findings of a representative survey of more than 1,000 people aged 18 and over in Germany, commissioned by the digital association Bitkom.

One way to speed up the digital transformation in local towns and municipalities was to give federal authorities more power, those polled said. Four out of five (81 per cent) wanted the federal government to take a greater responsibility for establishing federal standards. “The public want towns and municipalities to offer more online services. Local government must do more to meet these demands“, said Dr. Bernhard Rohleder, managing director of Bitkom. “The federal government must assume greater responsibility for the digital transformation and be more proactive. It must be able to establish and maintain standards. Municipalities need money and expertise, and there must be a dialogue between businesses and local residents.“

The Smart Country Convention offers a platform for this dialogue. It is taking place on 26 and 27 October 2021 as an entirely virtual event and combines a convention and networking events on E-Government and smart cities. Jens Heithecker, executive vice president of Messe Berlin: “The digital transformation of public services is one of the most important tasks of our times – the coronavirus pandemic has impressively shown that. However, this is a topic we were already keen to tackle long before the pandemic exposed existing deficits and the untapped potential of digitisation. In 2018 the Smart Country Convention was launched with the aim of speeding up the digital transformation in the public sector, for which it immediately became a meeting place. What is special about the Smart Country Convention is that it embraces every sector. Be it E-Government, smart cities or smart regions, our aim is to present how this topic affects every part of the value chain and to bring all the actors together. We are not just talking about the digital transformation. Above all, based on concrete examples, we are showing how it works.”

Four out of five citizens want to visit their local authority online

From the public’s point of view, a complete digital transformation of overstretched local authorities would go a long way to achieving aims at federal, state and municipal level. A large majority of German citizens want local government to offer online services. Currently, four out of five (80 per cent) say they want to deal with local authorities online. 88 per cent go even further and say that applying for, renewing and having documents delivered should be an automatic procedure.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents say they would use their electronic ID card to communicate with local authorities online. A similar proportion (75 per cent) are in favour of introducing a standard service account that could be used for identification and authentification and accessing all online government services. One in two respondents (58 per cent) are willing to fill in personal information a single time so that local authorities can subsequently share the data. According to Rohleder, “being able to offer innovative, online local government services is important when it comes to attracting international business. In the years to come, it is hard to imagine the best innovative and forward-looking business models establishing themselves in countries where digitisation of local government has lagged behind.“

Online services for families and children are particularly in demand – from birth until when education begins. One in two (56 per cent) respondents say they would apply for family services online. A similar proportion (55 per cent) would also do so for birth certificates. 94 per cent would prefer a centralised portal for registering children at kindergarten and school and would like an automatic offer of a kindergarten place. 98 per cent would like to see schools be properly equipped with computers and 88 per cent want their town to focus on developing online services.

Two-thirds see the Online Access Act failing to meet its implementation date

According to the Online Access Act, all 575 local government services are to be available online by the end of 2022. Work is under way on 314 of them. Of these, 115 are in the planning stage and 199 are due to be up and running shortly. Throughout Germany, 73 separate services are currently publicly available. Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents think that not all online services will be available on time, while one-third (33 per cent) believe the project will succeed. “Implementing the Online Access Act is one of the most important steps en route to a digitised state”, said Rohleder. “Even if question marks hang over its implementation by the end of 2022, we have to set our sights beyond. As well as the Online Access Act we need legislation on the future of local government. Online local government services will only realise their full potential when internal processes have become fully digitised too.“ Part of this process was making procedures more transparent, he said, by allowing the public to track their applications online for example. 87 per cent of respondents are in favour of this. Only slightly more than one-third (38 per cent) say that local authorities provide quick and competent answers to their enquiries.

Public in favour of smartphones receiving severe weather warnings

Digital safety concepts have also met with keen interest. Almost all respondents (96 per cent) are in favour of local authorities issuing severe weather warnings to their smartphones for example. Many are open to public safety measures too. 86 and 82 per cent respectively are in favour of firefighters and police officers wearing bodycams. Four out of five (79 per cent) respondents agree with CCTV cameras monitoring open spaces if this complies with data protection laws. Three-quarters (75 per cent) think public online access to the police should be expanded, and seven out of ten (70 per cent) agree to drones being used at large events. 68 per cent are in favour of a systematic analysis of social media to identify and track criminal activities. Over one in two (59 per cent) respondents are in favour of introducing a voluntary system for uploading videos and information to assist hunting crime suspects.

Cities, rural areas, opportunities – the digital transformation offers solutions

Cities and rural areas are facing huge challenges which the digital transformation can help overcome. Almost nine out of ten (88 per cent) respondents agree that cities and municipalities must step up the digital transformation in order not to be left behind. For 79 per cent of respondents it is clear that this process will help to create equal opportunities in cities and rural areas.

People who live in cities see the best opportunities as being in better education for children (78 per cent), new mobility and transport concepts (76 per cent) and improved public safety (70 per cent). Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents think the digital transformation will ease the workload of local government and help the environment (62 per cent).

In rural areas too, four out of five (81 per cent) respondents hope the digital transformation will result in better education services for children. 79 per cent also see rural areas benefiting from becoming more attractive places to live and work and from companies establishing their business there (71 per cent). Two-thirds (66 per cent) expect the digital transformation to ease the workload of local government. 63 per cent think that as a result of it rural areas will receive better medical care. Rohleder: “Digital solutions can help overcome distances, with regard to medical care, education, public services and work. Nowhere are distances greater than in rural areas. Digitisation is what we need here.“

Methodology: the information provided is based on a poll commissioned by the digital association Bitkom and conducted by Bitkom Research. A telephone survey was carried out among 1,006 people in Germany aged 18 or over. The findings are representative.