Over the past decade, many Information Society strategies have emerged in Europe, such as eEurope (1999), i2010 (2005) and Digital Agenda for Europe (2010). eGovernment, eHealth and eInclusion are the three policy sub-domains comprising the societal public services pillar which is the backbone of all such strategic frameworks. Given the emphasis that the new overarching EU2020 Strategy places on tackling grand societal challenges and turning them into economic opportunities, the relevance of these three domains is greater today than in the past.
This issue aims to find theoretical and interpretative frameworks that may help to comprehend the evidence already collected and to support new and innovative policy approaches. These new approaches will lead to the transformation of a public service delivery system, to inclusive growth and to the dissemination of sustainable eHealth practices, thus improving the efforts towards 2020. The articles published in this issue bring forward a number of concise lessons learned form eGovernment, eInclusion and eHealth practices during the past decades. Much discussion focuses around the ever more commonly cultivated perception that various terms like “accessibility”, “participation” and “inclusion” should not be seen anymore as something different than their electronic dimension (as indicated by the “e” prefix).
Other lessons learned refer to eAccessibility, arguing that the concept should be interpreted in the context of how public authorities integrate individual relevance and success criteria into it. The need for more organisational models to facilitate interoperability is also a crucial lesson that has been stressed in the following articles. In general, the authors seem to bring forward the idea that more policy instruments are required in order for the ePractices and eConcepts to be properly and efficiently promoted for the benefit of societies overall.
Pedro Prieto-Martín, Luis de Marcos and Jose Javier Martínez demonstrate in their paper the progress of eParticipation in Europe, focusing particularly on EU projects and policies. The study includes an assessment of the eParticipation achievements and limitations, as well as those of the European innovation policies, which lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Its basic recommendation is that the European Commission should consider Participation and eParticipation as exactly the same, while the EU should abandon its previous approaches and shift to user-centric policies.
John Borras provides a thorough analysis of the OASIS Transformational Government Framework and its components, whose aim is for governments to overcome the challenges faced during the transformational process and to offer a genuinely ICT-enabled change in their services. Through the Transformational Government Framework, public services become more citizen-centric and costeffective, while cross-government efficiency is achieved. The author outlines the need to move to a new service delivery model, the transformational government, after a decade of eGovernment.
Thomas Frandzen’s paper elaborates on the issue of eAccessibility and the limited use of public websites by citizens. It suggests that eAccessibility should be interpreted according to the individual relevance and success criteria of public authorities in order to be successfully integrated into them. The paper applies Niklas Luhmann’s theoretical framework in an attempt to explain the internal logic of individual authorities and organisations. Finally, the author suggests that analysis of this framework may work as a tool to interpret the policy resistance in these organisations and to develop policy.
eAccessibility is also related with internet control, as Zach Bastick states in his contribution to the issue. He deals with the matter of freedom of speech on the Internet and how this is promoted or hindered, and underlines the need for a change in the perception of Internet in order to support eAccessibility and eInclusion. He analyses the changes in internet control and particularly in the control of Domain Name System (DNS) that have occurred throughout the years and notes that a shift of Internet into private control will result in restricted public benefits of the Internet.
Matthiew Pappst in his paper deals with the degree and reasons of resistance to Open Source solutions in government procurement, as in the case of the Dutch strategic IT plan “Netherlands Open in Connection”. The paper details the four dimensions that affect policy resistance, namely the technical, the legal, the financial/economical and the knowledge/experience dimension, and the reasons that this resistance remains despite measures introduced by the European Union and the Dutch government. The author suggests that each of the four dimensions should contain one or more policy instruments, which will be used by the policy maker to balance the positive and negative influences within the dimension.
Angelo Rossimori, Gregorio Mercurio and Rita Verbicaro look into another issue; eHealth and more specifically Connected Health, a new concept that should lead to a health-centric perspective. This new perspective will differ from the usual technology-centric approach and may help overcome the limits of current eHealth policies. This can be achieved through new organisational models that will enable interoperability and cooperation among actors, as well as by organising information within motivated operational frames. Lastly, the authors propose the creation of a specific network of references in order to create a shared culture that will support policy makers.
The distance covered in ePractices during the past decade is noteworthy. Yet, contemporary issues and problematics still focus (or need to focus) on the human aspect of digitisation, hinting that accessibility and inclusion in their electronic forms should be further broadened and promoted.
After a decade of eGovernment, eHealth and eInclusion, authors in this volume are centred on the need to further facilitate eAccessibility and eInclusion, in the sense that public services should become ever more citizen-centric and cost-effective. Thus, the discussion leads to other avenues that relate to a human/citizen-centric digitisation that contrasts with cases of intentional or unintentional policy resistance, as highlighted in some of the papers in this volume.
This is, eventually, the challenge for the future: to humanise ePractices and eConcepts so as to better serve citizens, while at the same time constituting a safe and secure network for efficient public administrations. The selection of the papers we provide here aim at constituting the beginning of a fruitful debate and further elaboration of the current needs for eGovernment, eInclusion, eHealth and eAccessibility, as raised by the practices (or even malpractices) of the recent and not so recent past.