The state in the Web

Polish government is increasingly using IT-based solutions.

Polish government is increasingly using IT-based solutions.

Initiatives have been taken for many years in Poland to implement electronic services for citizens and computer-aided state management processes. Local government offices and certain civil services (customs officers, border protection forces, fire-fighters, the police, etc.) are in the lead in this area. The "Cities in the Internet" conference, which has been held annually for eight years, significantly contributes to the promotion of e-government solutions among the representatives of local administration. Local governments have long ago admitted the significance of this issue and have persistently been implementing projects involving state-of-the-art technologies.

IT specialists working for local governments in many municipal and commune offices countrywide are much determined to create e-government systems. In Szczecin, Poznań, Łódź, Cracow, Gdańsk, Wrocław and many other cities in Poland the Internet has become an everyday tool used at work and in communication between civil service employees and citizens. Websites of local governments include most information about the work of administrative offices and procedures used in particular cases. They also offer access to documents developed by local authorities, such as the city's budget or acts passed by the city council. Works are underway to provide access to a greater number of basic public services. In some cities is already possible to register a company via the Internet or to submit an electronic, interactive application or form to a particular office. Enrollment to secondary schools is performed online. Digital city maps are also available in the Internet. Moreover, local government is preparing to implement the electronic signature.

Government employees have developed a project to create an electronic "Gate of Poland", an Internet portal for the whole public administration. Citizens visiting the portal would have the possibility to use online public services without the need to go to the office in person. The initiative wants to provide a one-stop shop for citizens who would have a 24/7 online access to all government agencies and public services in the country. As planned, the system is to be used by all communes in 2005. The project's aims are: facilitated information flow between public offices and citizens; a possibility to complete all legal formalities between the citizen, the business entity and the government online; exchange of information between public institutions; online submission of applications for documents (such as the ID, driving license, passport, etc.); facilitated access to medical and social security data.

The preliminary phase of the countrywide e-government initiative in the form of the online "Gate of Poland" will include the implementation of regional government portals - "Gate of Małopolska" and "Gate of Podlasie". Both projects are being implemented by provincial marshall offices. Both have been included in the so-called provincial contracts, which means that they will be funded not only from provincial funds but also from the state budget. The remaining financial resources will come from the EU structural funds and the 6th Program of the European Union. As follows from the "eEurope+ 2003" report published in February this year, "Gate of Małopolska", which is still under construction, has been considered one of the most advanced e-administration projects implemented in the accession countries.

The development of e-government has also been included in the "Strategy for IT Development of the Republic of Poland - ePoland" approved by the government. The document is an attempt to give an overview of all various efforts taken by the national and local authorities for many years and to set major directions for IT implementation in public services. The priorities in IT development in the state for the next three years include: broadband access to the Internet in every school, "Gate of Poland" - public administration e-services platform, Polish contents in the Internet, common IT education. The government has also approved a separate strategy for the development of broadband Internet access, "Siećpospolita" (the Web Republic of Poland).

The recently established Ministry of Scientific Research and Information Technology is to coordinate the works undertaken to implement the IT development plan for the country. Upon its initiative, a bill on IT development of individual government agencies was prepared. The proposed solutions aim at introducing uniform standards of information exchange within the whole government sector. They are also to create a possibility to supervise IT systems that are critical for the country. It is planned that suppliers of solutions for the government would be obliged to obtain certain certificates. The bill will soon be voted on in the Parliament.

The government will have to face new IT challenges upon Poland's accession to the European Union. The European integration entails the need to implement IT projects that are critical for effective functioning of the state within the Union. Many IT systems will be implemented because the Polish government will have to adjust to the EU standards and requirements. There are already many companies on the Polish market that specialize in services for the government. They all count on enlivened interest in their offerings and an increase of investments in IT systems in Polish offices and public institutions after May 1st.

Those involved in the IT development of the Polish government are aware of the fact that success in this field is closely related to the restructuring, modernizing and streamlining processes in the public sector. The Polish government has to search for the best way to use IT in order to increase the efficiency of its operations and to guarantee improved services to citizens. Many initiatives undertaken both on the central and on the local level show that the search is still in progress.

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