19. January 2022 By Andrea Giuliani
What is the Online Access Act?
You’ve probably heard a lot about the Online Access Act, but what is it exactly? The German Online Access Act (Onlinezugangsgesetz – OZG) aims to offer 575 federal, state and local administrative services electronically via administrative portals by the end of 2022, as well as to create an administrative portal that is oriented towards the user perspective of citizens and businesses.
Why is the Online Access Act important for Germany and what are the challenges?
The importance of this act lies in the fact that it combines all citizen-oriented services at all levels of the federal states and across all authorities in a single system. Citizens can log into the portal and have access to all services – for example, the registration process and the use of the online ID card function. This is an important and necessary step that Germany must take in order to move forward in the field of digitalisation and improve its public administration. However, this is also a major task in terms of cooperation and coordination between cities, states and the federal government.
The federal structure of the German public administration is a major challenge. It is difficult to establish effective communication between the different stakeholders and to create good cooperation between all levels of administration between the federal states and the federal government. The complete digitalisation of the entire public administration should take five years (from 2017 to 2022). However, it will now take longer, leading to significant delays in the roll-out of the portal for citizens. Another challenge is that many external service providers are heavily involved in supporting different parts of the digitalisation project, which in turn increases the number of stakeholders and individuals involved in the process. The following chart provides a good overview showing all groups involved in the Online Access Act.
The implementation: Network of portals, national digitalisation programme, state and local digitalisation programme
The Online Access Act can be divided into the two sub-areas of digitalisation programmes and network of portals, as we have shown in the following charts. The digitalisation programmes aim to effectively digitalise public administration and are organised into two different levels for this purpose: national digitalisation programme and state and local digitalisation programme.
Within the framework of the national digitalisation programme, the government bears the sole responsibility for the digitalisation of 115 services without having to involve the federal states. The process is divided into different phases. The first phase is the service clarification. The timeliness, consistency and the current service description of all German administrative services were checked. The second phase is the pilot phase, in which selected pilot projects will be started and the digitalisation process commences. This phase provides important insights regarding the approach to use for other national services, as well. Some services from the national programme, such as the digital child allowance, are already available online.
On the other side is the programme for putting state and local services and benefits online (Digitalisierungsprogramm Föderal), which is responsible for 460 of the 575 benefits of the German Online Access Act. In this programme at state and local level, the individual states, in cooperation with their local governments, take over the digitalisation process of the services and work according to 14 topics into which the services of the Online Access Act have been divided. The IT Planning Council was established in order to carry out the work effectively and efficiently. This council is composed of representatives of the German government and the federal states and steers cooperation between the states in the areas of information technology and eGovernment. The IT Planning Council meets regularly and makes decisions that set the direction for the digitalisation programme at state and local level. It is charge of implementing programme management across all topics.
The network of portals is the third central building block. Behind this is a centralised platform that offers all citizens and organisations access to all services of the Online Access Act, regardless of which administrative portal in Germany they log on to.
Conclusion: future prospects
What does all this mean for citizens? The Online Access Act represents the future of German public administration and will certainly be implemented in the next few years despite the current delays. Access to public administration services in Germany and at EU level is becoming more intuitive and user-friendly thanks to the network of portals through the Online Access Act. This allows citizens to have a new and more positive experience with public administration. In addition, the new information management system at state and local level, which, by the way, will be discussed in more detail in another blog post, standardises information on administrative services, explains administrative processes and legal texts, and provides them in a more comprehensible and standardised format.
Would you like to learn more about exciting topics from the field of public administration? Then take a look at our previously published blog posts from the public sector.