The government is rapidly developing a large number of digital services. This has been ongoing for a number of years, but there is growing awareness that the digital infrastructure of the future is now being shaped. This has a major impact on our daily lives and how the government evolves. We do not want to leave the development of this digital infrastructure to corporate giants like Google and Microsoft.
Waag Society has therefore been working with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission to create guidelines for government agencies to develop digital services, and to discuss with citizens how an eCitizen Charter may be shaped. Building upon Matt Poelmans' eCitizen Charter (pdf) of 2006, workshops and research have been conducted in six European countries to see what citizens think their digital rights should be. A workshop has taken place in Amsterdam, on June 26 in the Waag building in Amsterdam, where experts and interested parties discussed what the new eCitizen Charter might look like.
What happens with my data?
During the meeting, it was brought forward that people want to know what data are collected about them and how these are being used. More and more governments gather data in an attempt to create profiles for more efficient business operations. Many of the participants were of the opinion that this goes too far, and believe that the government must actively protect citizens in this regard. Furthermore, it was emphasized that citizens continue to own data that are collected about them. They maintain the right to access their data, but also to correct errors themselves or, as some people have exercised, the right to be completely forgotten. Another important point was that citizens have not only rights, but also a duty to make themselves digitally literate. As is the case with reading and writing, the government must facilitate this education.
After collecting this information (see this pdf), a meeting was organized in Brussels by the JRC. Here, results were discussed from six different European countries: France, Spain, Estonia, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands. The main points which emerged from the perspectives of citizens and policymakers were considered. Many of these considerations reflected what was discussed in the Amsterdam workshop, but there were noteworthy additions, such as the potential to use public services using a single identification method throughout the EU. Inclusive user-friendliness was also emphasized, so that citizens with restrictions or disabilities are able to participate.
The results of this are still being processed by the JRC, and will be presented thereafter to the European Commission, with the chance of culminating in a European eCitizen Charter upholding the values that are important to citizens and future democracy. By the end of this year, it will become more clear what the European Commission will do with the results. The aim is to ultimately have broad-based European directives on digital government services that serve the wishes and needs of citizens.