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Meeting new societal needs by using emerging technologies in the public sector

Specific challenge: Public sector innovation and the modernisation of public administrations are considered as important underlying factors for economic growth[1] and also contribute to competitiveness. It is essential to promote innovation in order to foster efficient, open citizen-centric public services. This innovation also addresses the challenge of social change and user needs.

In order to improve efficiency, effectiveness and quality of public services, the public sector needs to implement new processes, products, services and methods of delivery. The public sector typically combines and builds on top of existing technology elements to innovate. However, in today's financial situation, the economical power of public administrations to pull research results into the market cannot be ignored. In the EU, the overall market for purchases of goods, services and works by the public sector accounts for almost 20% of GDP.

New insights in how to think of the systems and services combined with new technologies are providing exciting opportunities for innovative designs and transformation of public sector delivery.


Further research, starting with identifying the specific challenges of the public sector, such as policy domain requeriments and the needs of targeted citizens or businesses is needed. The introduction of new technologies could lead to the transformation of processes and better regulation. Projects should demonstrate the benefit both for society as well as for civil servants. Research shall also explore the burdens - whether legal, human or others - that prevent public administrations from implementing the identified emerging technologies.

This requires multidisciplinary research taking into account the societal, political as well as human factors, including citizens and civil servants, and how they can contribute to modernising policies and innovative services of general interest in any policy field. Where relevant involving users and citizens in the design of public services is critical and it is also important to explore social acceptability, impact on the improvement in public service delivery and potential benefits for citizens, businesses and society.

Such an approach enables research results to reach a potential market, while at the same time it will help in modernising the public sector. It will take account of , and further develop, new knowledge on the interaction between citizens and public authorities, while taking into consideration the intoduction of new technologies in the particular context of public administrations, and explore how the uptake of emerging technologies by the public sector can help Europe overcome the crisis. For example, how can Web 3.0 (semantic web technologies), semantic interoperability, linked open data, Internet of things, social sensor networks, radio-frequency identification or wearable technologies, help to tackle challenges in the public sector? How can emerging, new technologies facilitate the process of government to become a platform allowing public and private actors to collaborate and create new services using open data and open services? How do emerging new technologies need to be adjusted to the specifities of the different selected policy domains of public activity?


a) Research and innovation actions

Based on the development and use of emerging technologies and research carried out so far, activities will support the preparation of next phases and possible validation in near to operational environment for the implementation of emerging ICT technologies in the public sector.

The focus can be on any or several of the below:

-                 Improving effectiveness and efficiency of public administrations;

-                 Transforming public administrations processes;

-                 Processes and ways in which new cultural and societal challenges are identified in public policies;

-                 Understanding the political and cultural attitudes and factors affecting attitudes among both civil servants and citizens towards public sector transformation and supporting adaptation;

-                 Transforming delivery of public services to business and citizens taking account of diversity (gender, age, disability etc);

-                 Uptake and acceptability of the use of emerging technologies in the public sector;

-                 Reducing the administrative burden of citizens and businesses;

-                 Offering inclusive public services.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

b) Coordination and support actions[2]:

The activities should aim at encouraging networking of relevant stakeholders and teams working in these areas and to support constituency building. The dynamic, multidisciplinary network will include researchers within the social and economic sciences working alongside computer scientists, designers and innovators. Following an assessment of the needs that may include engaging citizens and user centred design, the network will carry out a gap analysis and identify emerging technologies and potential applications for their implementation in the public sector, having in mind specificities relevant to different policy domains of public activity. The activities will conclude with the outlining of a roadmap for emerging research directions, in a multidisciplinary approach, taking into consideration activities also undertaken outside the European Union.

Expected impact: This topic will explore the potential benefit of using emerging ICT technologies in support of public sector innovation in line with the objectives of the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 and identify barriers for a wider use. Integrating emerging ICT technologies to enable an efficient, effective, environmentally-friendly, open and citizen-centric public sector will help to prepare the transformation to the public sector of the future and to support the implementation of innovative policy reforms adopted in different policy fields. The take-up of those technologies will encourage new innovations for the benefit of businesses and citizens, and open new areas for socio-economic research. Furthermore, stimulating the creation and use by the public services of emerging technologies will help to accelerate time-to-market and open up new markets for ICT solutions across the EU.

Type of action:

a) Research and innovation actions

b) Coordination and support actions

[1] Annual Growth Survey 2013, COM(2012) 750 final and Annual Growth Survey 2014, COM(2013) 800 final

[2] This activity directly aimed at supporting the development and implementation of evidence base for R&I policies and supporting various groups of stakeholders is excluded from the delegation to Research Executive Agency and will be implemented by the Commission services.