Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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​Digitalisation - 15.06.2021

Europe’s Digital Decade: 3 challenges for the EU to succeed
The digital transformation is having a major impact on our societies, everyday life, economy and the way public administrations function. With its communication “Europe’s digital decade”, the European Commission outlined its vision for the digitalisation of our societies, notably by setting targets in areas such as education, business, infrastructure and government.

These unprecedented targets do not come alone. The EU’s €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility has indeed fixed that at least 20% of national recoveryplans be dedicated to digital transition.

We aspire to a society in which we make use of technology’s potential and safeguard the public interest. Making all public services available online will be a crucial challenge for local and regional governments. 

The webinar “Are we ready for a Local Digital Decade?”, organised by CEMR and its associations, shed light on some of the challenges that the EU has to take into account to succeed in its digital strategy. 

The transition to e-government requires investments 

New technology rarely comes cheap and the digitisation of local public administration can put pressure on local finances. “Sufficient attention is not paid to the financing of the renewal or maintenance of existing and active services,” said Kaimo Käärmann-Liive from the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities (AECM). The Recovery and Resilience Facility however represents a good opportunity to invest in our territories.

Equally important is that local and regional governments can count on public officials who have the knowledge and technical skills to adapt well to the digitisation of services. The EU should ensure financial support and adequate platforms to share best practices and development of digital skills within municipalities and regions, for example through the new Digital Europe Programme

No territory should be left behind

EU digital ambitions must take into account rural, less populated and remote areas. “The GDPR created a lot of bureaucracy and administrative costs, and small municipalities are struggling to implement it”, said Michael Schmitz, an advisor at German County Association (DLT). The same goes for 5G, which aims to cover of 80% of territory. We should make sure that it “should not be targeted to only populous places.” In fact, “the 80% target is not ambitious enough since private telecommunication companies in Germany have argued that we can cover 99% of the territory.” 

A proper data management is key

Cities need to manage local data but this is a very complex undertaking. A study published by the Association of German Cities (DST) called “Urban Data ” reveals that data management requires cooperation, transparency and dialogue.  Sharing data across sectors is important as  you need expertise within the local reality. There is a need to fit the legal and infrastructural frameworks, and reorganise powers and competences. 

The accessibility, security, availability and usability of services must be guaranteed so that they can be used by all in a non-discriminatory manner. The notion of "intersectionality" is therefore essential to understand how several factors of discrimination can add up and enable us to empower the most disadvantaged citizens.

This webinar was part of a series organised by CEMR for its members that aims to provide them with key knowledge, insights and capacities to engage local government in the digital transformation. 
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