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Cutting a path through the bureaucratic jungle

More and more local authorities are providing ancillary electronic services such as a virtual town hall. Providers can test their administration systems in the e-government laboratory, where the prototype of a country-wide public authority hotline is also under development.

Is the street-lamp outside your house faulty? Maybe you need a birth certificate, or you have a few questions about your tax statement? All you need to do is call ServiceLine 115. Available round the clock, the public authority hotline will arrange for the lamp to be repaired or the required papers to be issued. Many people would be glad of such a practical service. In partnership with the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS are testing this electronic administration service in their e-government laboratory in order to establish if it can work and whether it is economically viable. Their customer is the ISPRAT Institute, an e-government initiative launched by Hesse state secretary Harald Lemke. “We used the e-government laboratory to develop some preliminary sample scenarios for ServiceLine 115,” says project manager Uwe Holzmann-Kaiser. When a member of the public calls the number, the appropriate administration processes are triggered in the background, making it unnecessary for the caller to be passed from one member of staff to another at the public offices. A so-called KnowledgeCenter makes the basic facts available to the person taking the call on the hotline, enabling them to give the caller the desired information, for instance the date of the next organic waste collection. The responsible department can also be identified via the KnowledgeCenter, and the necessary steps initiated. The defective street-lamp is thus automatically reported to the appropriate section of the Department for Public Works, and the electrician is instructed to repair it. At the IT summit meeting in Potsdam at the end of 2006, Angela Merkel raised the idea of a nationwide service hotline for public authorities modeled on New York City’s 311 hotline where citizens can contact public offices at a central point 24 hours a day. With the aid of the e-government laboratory, the Fraunhofer researchers have now implemented a prototype “ServiceLine 115” here in Germany. “The e-government laboratory combines the skills, technologies and developments needed to test this kind of administration system. It unifies diverse access networks by using an international telecommunications standard,” states Holzmann-Kaiser. It also pools the technical and professional know-how of more than 30 partners from IT and public administration. The researchers will be presenting applications for the e-government laboratory at the CeBIT fair in Hanover from March 15 to 21 (Hall 9, Stand B36).

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