The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Delegated digitalisation – an evaluation of the eGovernment Delegation (2014:12)

Since March 2009, the eGovernment Delegation, a committee under the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, has been commissioned to run and coordinate the government agencies' work with eGovernment in the Swedish civil service. The Delegation, composed of the agency heads of 16 agencies and a representative from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), has had the overall task of addressing the weaknesses in the management and coordination of the eGovernment area, as well as streamlining and developing the work with eGovernment. On 31 December 2014, the eGovernment Delegation's commission expires.

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret,the Swedish Agency for Public Management, has evaluated the activities of the eGovernment Delegation. The assignment has been to:

  • describe and analyse how the Delegation has accomplished its commission,
  • describe and analyse how the Delegation's support has benefited the agencies,
  • describe and analyse the effects of the Delegation's work,
  • analyse how the Delegation's composition and chosen organisational form, including work approach and methodology, have worked in relation to the commission. In addition to the legal form of business activity, this also relates to the internal organisation, including secretariat, reference groups and work groups.

Statskontoret has also been asked to submit proposals - where necessary - that will help to improve eGovernment work.

The eGovernment Delegation has to some extent carried out the assignments in the directives

Statskontoret observes that the eGovernment Delegation has to some extent carried out the tasks stipulated by the Government in the directives. The Delegation's performance is consistently better in those parts of the commission that have a more operational focus, such as working with guidance documents and guidelines. The more fundamental inquiry tasks incumbent on the Delegation, including the requirement to develop proposals on how interoperability within the civil service can be achieved, and the requirement to monitor the consequences of eGovernment for citizens and businesses, however, have not been performed with the same result. Statskontoret notes that the implementation has partially been hampered by the multi-faceted commission. The different tasks of the commission has been difficult to reconcile and has led to a lack of clarity in responsibilities and tasks, both within the Delegation and in relation to the Government Offices.

The agencies have benefited to some extent from the eGovernment Delegation's direct support

In terms of the agencies having benefited from the eGovernment Delegation's support, Statskontoret's assessment is that the guidance documents and guidelines produced by the Delegation are widely used in the Swedish civil service. The guidance documents have thus fulfilled a function as a form of support and source of knowledge in the work of the agencies. However, the contact between the Delegation and other civil service departments has been limited. Relatively few agencies participate in the Delegation's activities. Furthermore, the majority of the agencies perceive the Delegation to have little or no significance for the development of eGovernment in their own agency. The overall assessment of Statskontoret is that the agencies have benefited most from the Delegation through some specific practical support. However, based on the agencies' overall work with eGovernment, it appears that this support has been limited.

The effects of the eGovernment Delegation are difficult to assess

The issue of the effects of the eGovernment Delegation is difficult to assess, partly because many of the projects and feasibility studies managed by the Delegation have still not been fully implemented. Statskontoret's general assessment is that the direct impact of the eGovernment Delegation comprises concrete e-services and publications, as well as an increased commitment and greater willingness to collaborate within the eGovernment Delegation's agencies. Statskontoret also notes that the Delegation has provided key documentation for the establishment of certain eGovernment joint initiatives, such as the e-identification solution for the public sector and the joint administrative support services provided through the National Government Service Centre. That being said, the Delegation's results with regards to services and willingness to collaborate have mainly been limited to the agencies within the Delegation and have to a much lesser extent reached other parts of the civil service. The aim is for the joint administrative services to be used by the entire civil service in the long term. Thus far, there are only four so-called "development agencies"; agencies that have been assigned special responsibility for the development of eGovernment within their sector. These agencies are all in the eGovernment Delegation. There is therefore a lack of development responsibility in several sectors of society.

The Government's steering of the eGovernment Delegation has fallen short

Statskontoret notes that the Government's steering of the eGovernment Delegation has fallen short in several respects. The state secretary group for eGovernment, which should act as a recipient organisation for the eGovernment Delegation's proposals, has not actually filled this function. This has meant that the proposals submitted by the Delegation have not been successfully managed. eGovernment is a central tool in much of the operational development of the civil service in general. Statskontoret therefore believes that eGovernment issues would benefit from being clearly linked to other public administration matters. Conversely, the issues have been disadvantaged by having been separated from the public administration. Furthermore, Statskontoret notes that the eGovernment Delegation's commission has been voluminous, disparate and unclear. The Delegation has also received inadequate and conflicting signals from the responsible unit of the Government Offices. In addition, the Government has not succeeded in prioritising the area of eGovernment to any significant degree in terms of earmarked funds, in comparison with Denmark or Finland, for example. It is also the assessment of Statskontoret that the Government has failed to clearly delineate responsibilities, roles and priorities for the eGovernment Delegation. Statskontoret notes that a clearer delineation of the commission would have improved the conditions for the eGovernment Delegation to achieve its mission.

This lack of steering by the Government has characterised the eGovernment Delegation's organisation and work methods. The Delegation's organisational form and composition have certainly benefited the work with establishing and driving the development work in the administration, but the Delegation has functioned less successfully as support to the Government. The Delegation's composition has made it more difficult to conduct effective and qualitative inquiry work.

Added value through increased collaboration and support

Statskontoret's assessment is that the eGovernment Delegation has utilised the driving and development force found in the agencies that make up the Delegation. In addition, the Delegation's work has contributed to maintaining and developing networks and competence communities in eGovernment issues within the public sector. This development force has been behind many of the eGovernment Delegation's major achievements, such as guidance documents and guidelines for the eGovernment work, and the joint administrative projects. Statskontoret would particularly like to stress the importance of the Delegation's networks and development work being upheld, in the continued organisation of eGovernment.

Need for increased collaboration between state, municipalities and county councils

Statskontoret's assessment is that the potential in increased collaboration between the state, municipal and county council level in eGovernment issues is still largely untapped. Statskontoret's evaluation shows that the eGovernment Delegation has not sufficiently been able to describe how cooperation between the state, municipalities and county councils can be enhanced in eGovernment issues. This is partly because the municipalities and county councils' representation in the Delegation has been too weak. In addition, the composition of the agencies comprising the Delegation has been significant, since activities that are central to municipalities and county councils, such as health care and schools, are not represented.

Continued need for guidance and well-developed proposals

According to Statskontoret's assessment, there remains a need to strengthen the collective decision-making and implementation power within the area of eGovernment. Digital collaboration in the administration as a whole, between sectors and between administrative levels, is still undeveloped. Furthermore, the conditions for achieving greater interoperability within the government and the entire public sector are not adequately investigated. This also applies to conditions for dealing with the potential risks of eGovernment regarding insufficient information security or issues related personal integrity .

There is also a need to find more powerful financing models for eGovernment initiatives of a larger scale, including those initiatives involving major risks for the actors responsible for the investment costs. In addition, the evaluation reveals a great need for continued skills support and a need for guidance on issues related to IT development within the administration. This involves both technical and legal support, but also issues related to benefits realisation for eGovernment projects.

Finally, there is a need to clarify the Government's overall priorities for the eGovernment area. Issues regarding eGovernment are central to the public sector's development, and cannot simply be reduced to decisions made at the civil servant level. This is also important concerning democratic accountability for the decisions made within the field.

Proposals to improve eGovernment work

Statskontoret submits the following proposals to streamline the eGovernment work in the future:

  • strengthen the work's relevance with regard to public administration matters by linking the eGovernment work more clearly to other operational development within the civil service,
  • strengthen the Government Offices' capacity to manage eGovernment issues across ministerial boundaries, for example by allocating special funds for specific comprehensive eGovernment initiatives, and consider broadening the group of agencies responsible for development,
  • appoint a commission of inquiry to develop proposals aimed at achieving greater interoperability within the civil service while maintaining the protection of personal privacy and a continued high level of information security,
  • commission one or more agencies to ensure the long-term nature of the work with skills support, guidance and monitoring,
  • conclude the eGovernment Delegation's work in accordance with the Government's directives.