The world is changing at a fast pace. The Netherlands is going digital and that offers huge opportunities to do things in a smarter way. We as the national and decentral government, wish to grasp those opportunities. At the same time, it is vitally important that we respect the autonomy of the individual citizen.
In the face of advancing digitalisation, the Constitution and specific public values including privacy, self-determination and equality must be protected. We are not alone in recognising this fact. The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), the National Ombudsman and the Rathenau Institute have also issued recommendations on these issues.
This agenda is all about utilising opportunities and protecting rights.
Today’s world is rife with discussion about the opportunities on offer – by artificial intelligence, blockchain, bitcoin and drones, for example. All around us, governments, businesses and institutions are investing in new-technologies because they see opportunities for improving their tasks, services or products. These developments also pose questions. We as a society are not yet able to answer those questions. For example, what does the exchange of personal data mean for the security and privacy of the individual? How can we make sure that this data is properly protected? How can we keep digitalisation from diminishing such essential values as equality and democracy? And how can we guarantee that everyone is able to continue participating in our society?
Our aim is not only to organise the debate on these issues, but also to take actual steps. We want to increase the autonomy of individual citizens and entrepreneurs. That means that we aim to create one central place in which citizens and entre- preneurs can meet government and institutions to deal with those issues that relate to them personally. The many possibilities include altering your own personal data, gaining access to any data that is recorded about yourself, granting consent for the use of your personal data, and managing your digital login facilities.
Context of the agenda
This agenda has not been drawn up in isolation, of course. The Dutch Digitalisation Strategy – Nederland Digitaal – is a Cabinet-wide strategy that considers every aspect of digitalisation. The Digital Government Agenda is aimed at government and interaction with citizens and entrepreneurs. There is a separate agenda to deal with cyber security issues – namely, the Dutch Cyber Security Agenda.
This Digital Government Agenda is an agenda drawn up together by all levels of government and it establishes links with key public and private partners. In that sense, this agenda cannot be viewed in isolation from the (Central) government Inter-administrative Programme, the Digital Agenda 2020 of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), Common Ground from the municipalities,
The Digital Society of the VSNU, and the European Digital Agenda. We will be producing and implementing this agenda together with a wide variety of partners. Among the most important of those partners are the administration agencies, businesses, knowledge institutions, the citizens’ sounding board group and businesses sounding board group, and European organisations. Our digitalisation process must also, of course, tie in with European agreements such as the Tallinn declaration on eGovernment in Europe.
A new work approach
In this Digital Government Agenda, the needs and rights of citizens and entrepreneurs will be the central point of focus, alongside the social challenges – for example, in the fields of security and healthcare. We are realistic and will work at a pace that matches the speed of modern developments. The complexity of the issues calls for all of government to act jointly and with clear leadership in taking responsibility to tackle those challenges. Digitalisation is more than day-to-day practice: it is a subject for discussion at boardroom level. And because digitalisation is not restricted by national boundaries, it calls for close collaboration with other European countries.
In real terms, this means that innovation will require experimentation, also with our European partners. That in turn demands leadership and a coalition of the willing. In this process, the Netherlands will seek to work actively alongside its European partners in doing things we have never done before. For example, we will be involving citizens and entrepreneurs in the development phase of new services. We will invest in research, and we will not shy away from the risk of failure.
Cooperation will be essential, both within government itself and with the private sector, civil society and the sciences. We also plan to ensure that everyone within government has the necessary knowledge of digitalisation, from the grassroots through to the upper echelons. And, where necessary, we will create new laws such as the Digital Government Act.
Government organisations such as municipalities, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) and the Education Executive Agency (DUO) maintain daily contacts with citizens and entrepreneurs. To a considerable extent, they are the face of government and, as such, play a key role in determining the elements of the basic digital infrastructure. Deciding what we plan to do is in essence policy-making. How we then implement that policy is the specific responsibility of these organisations. Only by collaborating closely can we maintain the ties between policy and implementation.
There is already a wide range of facilities that must be kept secure and reliable, such as DigiD and MijnOverheid. Government also aims to work towards the broadest possible use of standards such as Standard Business Reporting. This enables entrepreneurs to record their details once, and to simply reuse them whenever subsequently necessary. The data required for the provision of services to citizens and entrepreneurs can be extracted from the basic registries such as the Basic Municipal Registry (Basisregistratie Personen) and the Basic Registry of Large-scale Topography (Basisregistratie Grootschalige Topografie). We are proud of these systems. The facilities, agreements, standards and registries together form a solid foundation for further development. Many of these facilities require modernisation, certainly if we aim to increase the autonomy of individual citizens and entrepreneurs. Facilities for digital identity and digital authorisation are of crucial importance.
We intend to modernise this basic digital infrastructure in small, logical, controlled stages. Each year, we will draw up an action plan based on the principles of continuity and continued service provision. To satisfy emerging requirements, we will first carry out an implementation test. At the same time, we will innovate by trying out new applications.
The legislative Bill on Digital Government will lay the legal foundations for the entire Generic Digital Infrastructure (GDI). This includes the rules on information security and privacy. In this manner, the Bill will set out the principle that requires government bodies to employ open standards. It will also give supervision and enforcement a basis in law. In this way, we plan to implement the idea of a single government, in the interests of our citizens and entrepreneurs.
The agenda and financing
Now and in the coming years, we plan to provide our services securely, quickly and reliably and to tackle social challenges, while maintaining a constant focus on fundamental rights and public values. This naturally calls for both time and money. We cannot do everything at once, and we must stay abreast of new developments. On the road to achieving our targets, we are open to discussion and new ideas. For that reason, this agenda is not cast in stone and will be updated at least once a year.
To finance the agenda – in addition to the regular budgetary funding from the relevant government bodies – an Investment Item for Digital Government has been made available within the budget from the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
Facts and figures