Council of Europe outlines e-governance strategy

By EDRi · December 30, 2004

The Council of Europe has adopted a recommendation on e-governance on 15
December 2004. The Council recommends that member states “Work together
with the appropriate international, national, regional and local
stakeholders, to develop a shared vision of e-governance that upholds
human rights, democracy and the rule of law.” Member states should use
e-governance to
strengthen democratic institutions at all levels and make them more
accessible, transparent, accountable and responsive. E-governance is not
one-sided, but should provide opportunities for all to participate in the
process of decision-making. Finally member states should use information
and communication technologies to “improve public administration and
services by making them more accessible, user-centred, transparent,
efficient and cost-effective, thus contributing to the economic and
cultural vitality of society.”

The recommendation also promotes open standards and open source software:
“(the e-governance strategy) provides for an ICT policy based on
technology neutrality, open standards and on the assessment of
possibilities offered by different software models, including open source

Many countries are currently developing digital identification schemes and
are designing new databases to collate multiple sources of government
information about citizens. The recommendation does not interfere with one
of the hottest debates; about the voluntary co-operation of citizens. The
text suggests it might be optional to use digital media to use government
services: “widen the choices available to users for communicating and
transacting with government by providing additional channels”. But opt-in
is not explicitly mentioned when it comes to privacy. Privacy is mentioned
only as the need to be “aware of the potential risks related, in
particular, to the abuse of personal data” and as the need to enhance
“citizens’ confidence in democratic processes, public authorities and
public services, including through protecting personal data.”

Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member states on
electronic governance (15.12.2004)