In this article you will read about,
- what the Online Access Act is all about,
- how digitalization and modernization are being implemented in the German public administration
- and why public clouds like the Open Telekom Cloud can help.
Germany needs to become more digital. At least as far as the public administration is concerned. In the Digital Economy and Society Index 2020, Germany ranks 12th in the EU for e-government. The Online Access Act (OZG) came into force in 2017 to help the country catch up. The aim is to provide citizens and companies with digital access to all federal, state, and local government services by the end of 2022 at the latest – from applications for new passports to business registration forms. The law also states that the previously independent portals of the states and municipalities must be merged into a single portal network. "The availability of online administrative services in Germany is currently very heterogeneous and still very opaque for citizens and companies," says Jürgen Breithaupt, Squad Head Digital Administration/OZG at Deutsche Telekom Business Solutions. This, too, should be a thing of the past by the end of 2022.
However, simply making the 575 administrative services listed in Germany's so-called LeiKa public administration catalog available online is not enough to catch up digitally. "The law would already be complied with if citizens could find administrative services online and fill out forms digitally," says Breithaupt. But for sustainable transformation in public administration, fully digitalized processes are required. Meaning: "That the electronically-obtained data is also received and processed electronically in the responsible public administration areas."
Completely digitalizing processes
This is a major challenge in several respects. After all, it's not just a matter of integrating the numerous existing systems. "Almost all public administrative services involve the processing of personal data," says Breithaupt. "So, access must be secure, and all processes must be GDPR-compliant. In addition, users must be able to authenticate themselves unambiguously."
For the fully digital processes, the various state registers such as the residency registration or civil status register are also to be linked to the OZG processes in accordance with the Federal Register Modernization Act passed by the Bundesrat in spring 2021. "As a result, in the future citizens will no longer have to search again for the same data and documents every time they contact the public administration. Digital data already available in one register will be linked to others via the tax identification number. In this way, the information is automatically available for citizens’ other matters or can be used directly within an OZG application process," says Breithaupt.
Working with established partners
But in order to implement the public administration's digitalization projects on time, the administration needs to work together with its IT service providers, science and research, and the IT industry. "The financial boost from the economic stimulus package is the necessary prerequisite, but the digitalization of the German public administration landscape will only be successful if there is cooperation based on trust," explains Breithaupt. The timetable is tight. The OZG and the portal network are to be implemented by the end of 2022. In addition, with the Single Digital Gateway Regulation, all online public administrative services should also be accessible at the EU level by the end of 2023. The next step will be the implementation of the Register Modernization Act by 2025.
No migration to the public cloud?
"Up to now, the data centers of the federal, state, and local governments have largely been responsible for the implementation and the secure, scalable operation of the OZG processes," says Matthias Greska, Sales Manager Open Telekom Cloud at T-Systems. But in future, there will be a need for IT resources that can be provided flexibly and at short notice, as well as for a long-term, cost-effective operation of the solutions. "These requirements are best met by a combination of in-house IT resources with flexible capacities that can be added or removed," says Greska. After all, in addition to the resources for the routine operation, extensive capacities for development environments or test systems must also be available regularly at short notice in the everyday public administration. In addition, the management systems must be able to react flexibly to unforeseeable events.
"Public clouds such as the Open Telekom Cloud offer a secure, BSI-compliant solution for these requirements. It provides fully comprehensive services from proof of concept to high-availability, fail-safe operation around the clock," explains Greska. Data storage and processing in the Open Telekom Cloud take place exclusively in the EU. As the operator, T-Systems is also not subject to the US Cloud Act, unlike American hyperscalers. Since the offering is based on open-source technology (OpenStack), there is no risk of vendor lock-in. That's important, because all services for the public sector have to be put out to tender again in Germany after a few years. "Accordingly, IT service providers must not tie themselves to the technology of a single provider," says Greska. In addition, "We are a large, stable partner with a nationwide infrastructure, with a lot of experience and references in public administration. What's more, the federal government holds a significant stake of 30 percent in our company," adds Greska.
Germany's digital infrastructure becomes hybrid
The interaction of the public administration's own data centers with resources from the public cloud creates a hybrid infrastructure of the kind that only recently proved itself during the coronavirus crisis. For example, when the need for platforms for coronavirus emergency aid or for schools and educational institutions arose at short notice. "With a flexible, hybrid infrastructure, the IT of the federal, state, and local governments is prepared for similarly unforeseen events, for example in the wake of a natural disaster, when many citizens need to access IT resources such as information portals at the same time. Here, our cloud offering forms an important infrastructure building block," says Greska.
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