A European Commission-backed ‘mystery shopper’-style research exercise that culminates in an annual ranking of the digitalisation of public services across Europe has highlighted ‘remarkable’ recent growth in four countries.
Türkiye, Greece, Serbia and Poland are all referenced in the ‘eGovernment Benchmark 2023’ report for particularly positive progress over the past year – albeit the latter three still find themselves in the bottom 10 of the overall ranking.
More than 15,000 websites across 35 European countries – the 27 European Union (EU) member states, as well as Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Türkiye – were assessed as part of the research, with countries receiving a composite ‘eGovernment maturity score’ (ranging from 0 to 100 points).
Malta, which has topped previous rankings, again came out on top. The Mediterranean island nation, which is the smallest EU member state by both population and geographical area, scored 96 points.
Other frontrunners are Estonia (with a score of 92), Luxembourg (89), Iceland (88) and Finland (86). The Netherlands (85), Lithuania (85), Denmark (85), Latvia (82) and Türkiye (81) complete the top 10. Albania (45), Montenegro (41) and North Macedonia (36) prop up the table (see the bottom of article for the full table and points).
Overall 84 per cent of government services across the countries can be completed fully online, up from 81 per cent last year. ‘This means that users obtain these services fully digitally, without the need for a physical visit to the local city office,’ the report states.
RELATED ARTICLE Malta tops European league table for digital government – an article (17 November 2021) in our sister title Global Government Forum on a previous edition of the research
Four ‘dimensions’ of assessment
This study evaluated online public services from what are described as four ‘dimensions’: user-centricity; transparency; ‘key enablers’; and cross-border services.
In respect of user-centricity, questions driving the research included to what extent services are provided online; mobile friendliness; and online support and feedback mechanisms; in respect of transparency, the study looked at the extent to which public administrations are providing ‘clear, openly communicated information about how their services are delivered’ and transparency about the way people’s personal data is being processed; for ‘key enablers’, the focus was on what technological enablers are in place for the delivery of e-government services; and, for cross-border services, the focus was on the ease with which citizens from abroad are able to access and use the online services.
The average score across the 35 nations for user-centricity was 90 points; for transparency it was 62 points; for key enablers it was 71 points; while for cross-border services it was 57 points.
Despite the growing investment in e-government, one out of five citizens that regularly use the internet ‘does not interact with the government online at all’, according to the report.
Ninety-three per cent of government websites are described as ‘mobile-friendly’. But the report states that ‘web accessibility remains a challenge, with more than eight out of ten public sector websites (82 per cent) violating one or more Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) criteria’. WCAG are an internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility.
EU policies crossover
Türkiye saw a 10-point increase in its overall score relative to last year, while Greece and Serbia each improved by eight points and Poland rose by seven points.
Türkiye, which ranked 16th overall last time round, and Greece, which has risen just one place to 28th, are also among nations highlighted for ‘leaping forwards’ over a five-year time span. The other nations mentioned in this context are Luxembourg, Hungary and Croatia. Luxembourg has risen to third position from 19th in the 2017 eGovernment Benchmark.
Malta and Estonia – whose government hosted the inaugural Global Government Fintech Lab in June 2022 – have consistently ranked well in rankings such as this. The UK, which ceased to be a member of the EU in January 2020, has previously featured in the report but did not do so last year (the eGovernment Benchmark 2022 report) nor this year.
The overall exercise ties in with EU policies, including the ‘Digital Decade’ programme, which aims at achieving 100 per cent online provision of ‘key public services’ by 2030; the Interoperable Europe Act – adopted by the Commission in November 2022 – to boost cross-border interoperability and co-operation in the public sector across the EU; the EU’s eIDAS (which stands for ‘electronic identification, authentication and trust services’) regulation; and the ‘Berlin Declaration on Digital Society and Value-Based Digital Government’, which was signed in December 2020 by ministers responsible for digital transformation in EU member states’ public administrations.
The study covered the websites of 2,977 public administrations in total: 1,294 central, 505 regional and 1,178 local government bodies. Research was undertaken during July and August 2021, and November and December 2022.
‘eGovernment Benchmark 2023’ ranking
1st: Malta: 96 points
2nd: Estonia: 92 points
3rd: Luxembourg: 89 points
4th: Iceland: 88 points
5th: Finland: 86 points
6th: Netherlands: 85 points
7th: Lithuania: 85 points
8th: Denmark: 85 points
9th: Latvia: 82 points
10th: Türkiye: 81 points
11th: Norway: 80 points
12th: Spain: 79 points
13th: Portugal: 79 points
14th: Austria: 78 points
15th: Belgium: 77 points
16th: Sweden: 77 points
17th: Ireland: 72 points
18th: France: 70 points
19th: Slovenia: 69 points
20th: Hungary: 68 points
21st: Germany: 21 points
22nd: Czech Republic: 64 points
23rd: Croatia: 63 points
24th: Bulgaria: 63 points
25th: Slovakia: 62 points
26th: Poland: 62 points
27th: Italy: 61 points
28th: Greece: 60 points
29th: Switzerland: 58 points
30th: Serbia: 56 points
31st: Cyprus: 53 points
32nd: Romania: 46 points
33rd: Albania: 45 points
34th: Montenegro: 41 points
35th: North Macedonia: 36 points
Source: ‘eGovernment Benchmark 2023’ report (European Commission)