DT offers e-government service in Germany

Deutsche Telekom AG (DT) is offering a one-stop e-government service to cash-strapped German municipalities eager to lower their administrative costs.

The service, now commercially available after a several month pilot phase, could serve as a model to local city governments in other countries seeking ways to make their operations more cost-efficient and citizen-friendly, according to Peter Spohn, director of public sector services at T-Systems International GmbH, DT’s systems integration subsidiary in Frankfurt.

The rent-an-e-government service provides local governments with everything they need to replace paper-based transactions between administrative staff and citizens. “We offer a front-end solution that provides an electronic interface for citizens to use the most popular services provided by municipal governments, such as residence registration and construction permits,” Spohn said. “We’re totally focused on enabling end-to-end electronic transactions, much like those between banks and their online banking customers. Our service is fully electronic, eliminating the need for citizens to download, print, fill out and return forms at their end and for clerks to key in this information at the other.”

For instance, citizens using the service will find a button on the home page of their local government’s Web site, directing them to the e-government services, according to Spohn. With their own personal ID, they can log on and receive a catalog of services from which to pick. All forms are fully electronic requiring no printer or postage.

For a flat-rate, local governments can lease hardware, software, bandwidth, maintenance and support services provided by T-Systems through a network of data centers, which DT claims to be the biggest in Europe. “Municipalities don’t have to worry about buying equipment or hiring IT staff,” Spohn said. “We provide everything and we do so for a set fee that they can calculate in their budgets to avoid any financial risks. They don’t want to encounter any hidden costs down the road.”

Spohn estimates that municipalities can reduce their administrative costs for applications managed electronically by as much as 40 percent to 70 percent.

The time required to transfer transactions from paper to online can take around three to four weeks, he said.

Even though Germany has been at the forefront of introducing e-government services at the federal government level, the country has been slow to embrace the technology at the municipal level, according to Spohn. “Here is where businesses still waste precious time making trips to city government offices to fill out forms or get information,” Spohn said. “Between 80 and 90 percent of all transactions between government and citizens and businesses take place at the local level. But local governments, which are scared of anything that could generate additional costs, have done very little in the way of e-government. We hope to change that.”

Although T-Systems has no immediate plans to expand the service outside Germany, Spohn said it could be easily adapted to meet the needs of municipal governments in other European countries. “It’s really just a question of translating the content,” he said. “The underlying technology remains pretty much the same.”