LIACTES/IFIP Workshop on E-Government:
Legal, Technical and Pedagogical Aspects
Albarracin, Spain, 8-10 May 2003
University of Zaragoza, Spain
This is a conference report published on 4 July 2003
Citation: Galindo F, 'LIACTES/IFIP Workshop on E-Government: Legal, Technical and Pedagogical Aspects, Albarracin Spain, 8-10 May 2003', 2003 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT).
New Citation as as 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2003_1/galindo/>.
In February 2000 a workshop entitled Advances in Electronic Government was held in Zaragoza (Spain). This was a first meeting on Electronic Government with the participation, mainly, of legal academics and practitioners, who were involved in philosophical -legal reflection, or in carrying out computer applications and prognostications upon the key features of the then newly developing field of Electronic Government.
Electronic government (e-government) is understood to be the use of Internet and other technological resources in Public Administration with the aim of improving the services rendered to citizens, and promoting the participation of these people in the election of the governing bodies or in actual government by means of traditional consultation formulae. The object of the Workshop was to study the possibilities offered by Internet to establish a communication channel between citizens and Public Administrations, as well as to consider theoretical issues and suitable instruments in the analysis of the actual activities of Public Administration, in order to construct and implement e-government applications, in accordance with regulations and principles of the Rule of Law.
Between 8 and 10 May 2003, another workshop was held on the subject in Albarracin (Spain) entitled E-Government: Legal, Technical and Pedagogical Aspects . As can be seen from the titles, while the common element of both meetings was the study of e-government, the object of the second meeting was different. The basic interest of the 2003 meeting was to reflect upon the characteristics and contents of education and training in Electronic Government. This is because we are no longer facing mere possibilities as was the case in February 2000; the truth is that the use by the Governments and Public Administrations of the Internet and other technological resources to communicate with the citizens, render them services and improve the internal running of the Administration is today a reality that has, to a greater or lesser extent, already been reached, or at least, pointed out as a political objective, in practically all the countries in the world. Therefore, currently there is an urgent need to know how to present this reality as well as its virtues and defects to citizens, politicians, civil servants and technicians, insofar as it has been demonstrated that Electronic government applications secure greater satisfaction of the actual rights and duties of Public Administrations and citizens. This report informs of the basic content of the discussions and proposals of the Albarracin meeting.
The meeting was the consequence of two underlying developments. Firstly, since 1999, the key group of participants in the meeting has, with the support of the European Union Erasmus Programme, jointly designed and taught Masters Level or other special teaching programmes, on communication and information technology law. The programme has led, through staff and student exchanges and meetings, to
progress towards the aim of reaching common teaching objectives in the design of postgraduate studies in Communication and Information Technologies Law (CIT).
The preparation for the Albarracin meeting has benefited from the experience of other scientific meetings with different formats such as Summer Schools (Berlin 1999, Zaragoza 2000, Wroclaw 2002) and Conferences and Workshops (Warwick 2002, Rovaniemi 2002, Aix en Provenze 2002, among others). At all these interdisciplinary European meetings, it has been progressively possible to differentiate common topics to be discussed by the group of participants as well as by participants from outside the core group.
The conference website includes papers on the website in pdf format and can be accessed directly from links in the meeting programme below. The papers, together with additional papers, are also included in a book .
2. The Conference Papers
The Albarracin meeting was an open one including the core group of professors that have been working together on the subject since 1999, but also other researchers who presented papers and proposals accepted by the Scientific Committee.
The contributions made to the Meeting can be classified as follows:
Illustrative examples of the degree of implementation of electronic government in specific countries and therefore on the advisability of courses being given on the subject;
Proposals on contents of basic subjects to be explained in courses on electronic government
Pedagogy of e-government;
Technical proposals; and
Round table on the state-of-art and next steps to be taken in the teaching initiatives of the participants in the meeting.
3. Implementation Studies
Although all the interventions in the meeting referred implicitly or explicitly to the degree of implementation of electronic government in their respective countries, a number of presentations from Poland, Lithuania, Austria and Italy specifically emphasised implementation.
Thus, Karol Dobrzeniecki (University of Torun, Poland) discussed the state of art on electronic government in his country, specifically pointing out, using compared studies as reference, the low application level of electronic government developed in Poland compared with the levels in other European countries. He also pointed out that the situation is changing, by means of the start-up of public (central and local administration) and private initiatives, as well as activities developed by non-governmental organisations. The aim of these initiatives is to modify the situation by adapting the electronic government implementation process in Poland to that established by European Union Directives. The speaker suggested that the need for electronic government does not reside so much in the advisability of using technologies as in providing the citizens with public services in a better and more efficient manner.
Similar arguments were included in the presentation on the state of electronic government in Lithuania by Mindaugas Civilka and Tomas Lamanauskas (University of Vilnius). In their opinion, the citizens wish to obtain through these means the same quality of services from public institutions as they do from private companies. More specifically, in Lithuania it is understood that the introduction of electronic government can produce less corruption, increase in transparency, greater efficacy, growth in tax collection and cost reduction. Recent legislation on e-government is in harmony with the initiatives, regulations and recommendations approved in this regard by the European Union. The last part of the paper discusses teaching on electronic government and the plans for the future of the Legal Computing Centre of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius.
Doris Liebwahl (University of Vienna), Austria, informed the meeting on extensive use use of Communication and Information Technologies (CIT) by the Austrian Public Administration. She gave the example of the E-Law project, which foresees the use of CIT as auxiliary instruments in the preparation and publication process of laws. This leads to two initiatives having to be adopted in the teaching field: informing the technicians of the complexity of legal processes such as the preparation of laws and training jurists in all the complex technical mechanisms that are necessary to make a project such as E-Law become reality. The latter requires instruction in how electronic signatures work, as well as of the workflow processes, characteristics of electronic documents and modelling methods of administrative procedures.
Monica Palmirani (University of Bologna) discussed an Italian pilot experiment on the teaching of judges and civil servants of the Ministry of Justice on legal content, using distance-teaching resources. The experiment showed that it is only possible to prepare teaching proposals in e-government by means of an approach that takes into account the specific characteristics of the institution. The experiment also showed that the technical infrastructure is a mere instrumental addition, the pedagogical framework is much more important. She also suggested that teaching of civil servants by institutions such as the Ministries of Justice, raises different issues from Universities with their different organisation, running and objectives.
Dariusz Adamski (University of Wroclaw, Poland) rounded up this group of papers by suggesting that e-government applications are a mere tool and that the important thing for teaching e-government is a socio-economic understanding of the actions of government and public administration. Such teaching must take account of the 21st Century Information Society in which information work is the new reality in all fields.
4. Content of e-Government
A number of presentations discussed the content of e-government. These included the regulation of telecommunications, digital or electronic signature, privacy and systematisation of legal knowledge.
Abdul Paliwala (University of Warwick, United Kingdom) discussed the recent European Directives on electronic communications, which have to be implemented by Member states before 24 July 2003. He suggested that the principle of social cohesion was a critical to a proper consideration of the impact of the directives, as the declared objective of the Directives was to try to ensure the connectivity of all citizens, an elementary social need in information society. The basic problem of this European regulation, according to Paliwala, is the primary emphasis on self-regulation as opposed to state regulation of the market. This order of preferences may make it difficult to achieve the objective of fostering the social cohesion promised by the Directives. This is so because in e-communications the historic persistence of traditional monopolies requires the production of state regulations to prevent the dominant operator from imposing difficulties on the connection by means of telecommunications for the citizens, whatever their social extraction. The future will tell if the social cohesion provided by the difficult balance of power established by the Directives between European authorities, national authorities and service companies, has been achieved.
Jos Dumortier (Catholic University of Lovaina,Belgium) referred to how the application of digital signatures in electronic document filing can have positive consequences for electronic government. This is so because the requirements of establishing trustworthy third parties for the use of a digital signature may overcome the objections raised for the moment by the archivists against the electronic document preservation mechanisms. The problem is that there are legal limits: the European Directive on electronic signature and the state laws on the same subject deal with third parties but not with their quality of trustworthiness, but on the fact that they are public certification institutions.
Philip Leith (Queen's University of Belfast, United Kingdom) discussed the concept of 'public field' in relation to e-government. His focus was on UK government attempts to build on-line communities for public discussion of government projects and proposals. He contrasted the experience of 'Citizenspace' a discussion forum organised by the government's UK-Online website, with public spaces such as the Minnesota Department of Corrections. In his opinion, the former does not work effectively because of undue paternalistic control. In the latter personal information is exposed directly to the public "on line" in such a way that it may be considered that the right to intimacy of the people is violated by the institutions that offer this information. Leith's opinion was that control of such public spaces through expanding concepts of privacy can undermine the important values of community, responsibility and citizenship.
Juha Tolonen (University of Vaasa), Finland, presented an example of an Internet portal containing legal information about standards that regulate foreign trade in a European country. The proposal gave rise to a debate on the limitations of public legal information systems in developing free access to legal documents on the Internet.
Several works showed that the basic legal principles and contents of the constitutional legal system have to be considered as basic reference points when organising teaching on electronic government.
Ahti Saarenpää (University of Rovaniemi, Finland) focused on the situation of an interconnected society, governed by a future European Constitution, which, leads to legal education that differs from traditional approaches. This new education requires the jurists to have new aptitudes: for example, knowing how to plan, teach, interact and cooperate. Such education requires that education and training in e-government is not centred on generating specialists in new techniques, but on ensuring an understanding of the basic principles of good e-government, which include: respecting the principle of legality, guaranteeing the observance and safeguard of essential rights, trying to get the government tasks to be carried out mainly be civil servants, applying the general principles of Administrative Law and promoting the principle of public access to government documents. These principles of good e-government are often not put into practice, not even by the actual legislator, as currently numerous tensions arise when referring to the actual meaning of government, the limits of automated decisions, the realisation of transparency, the respect for privacy in government actions, the telematic interconnection of the Public Administrations and the logistics of the documents.
John Morison (Queen's University of Belfast,United Kingdom) pointed out the importance of e-government as a means to put the citizens in contact with the Public Administrations services, and to increase their efficiency. It is also very important as a means to participate in politics: not only by helping to carry out elections, but also due to the fact that it favours the execution by the Government of public consultations, it favours maintaining periodical contacts with the citizens and their representatives in the Parliament, and between the citizens and the political parties. Notwithstanding this, Morison warned about danger to basic principles of the Rule of Law. By this he referred not only to the danger of the digital division and the exclusion of the poorest people from social life, or to the problems of privacy and confidentiality, protection of data and human rights, but to the fact that there is a risk of fundamental change in the actual nature of government organisation on establishing sole communication channels with the Government, which can lead to it being identified with local administrations, third parties and even public institutions, affecting the principle of separation of powers or the distinction between public and private. That is why, Morison concluded, from the perspective of students and teachers of e-government, it is necessary not merely to produce plumbers (or mere technicians of e-government) but to promote a periclean approach which requires a deep understanding of constitutional principles and ideas which are going to be affected by e-government.
Daniel Oliver (University of Zaragoza) and Jose Félix Muñoz (Walqa Legal-Business Laboratory, Huesca), Spain, suggested that e-government teaching must be developed from a theoretic reflection on the Law based on principles more than on rules. To establish the conclusion, they took, as a reference point, the content of data protection teaching and the content of some studies that will begin next year in Zaragoza on Specialisation in Law of Communication and Information technologies (CIT). The authors explained how, in both cases, the respective subjects are explained as an application of the legal principles of transparency, efficiency and privacy more than from the account of the content of the legal rules that the legislator has to order the CITs).
Rimantas Petrauskas (Law University of Lithuania) expressed the advisability of changing the current educational approach on the regulation of the CITs, which consists of explaining different topics that integrate the subject, such as, data protection, electronic signature, security measures of information systems and telecommunications regulations. Instead, there was need for an emphasis on generalising and formalising the legal principles, needs and requirements to develop electronic government and its processes. This would lead to coherence with developments taking place in the European Union, and especially in the United States, aimed at regulating electronic government through laws. The speaker also suggested what could be the basic contents of a hypothetical law on electronic government.
Claudia Cevenini, (University of Bologna), Italy, presented the role that intelligent agents could play in teaching electronic government. She initially defined the agents as computer (computational) entities able to interact with the environment where they are situated by carrying out three basic functions: perceiving their environmental context, processing the information that comes from this context and carrying out actions aimed at modifying the context statute. The role of these agents in teaching electronic government may consist, bearing in mind already tested examples, in helping the students find the best solutions to complex problems, helping them identify information and data connected to known key words present in texts, which they have to study. She also mentioned that the agents can be used in the daily practice of electronic government, by helping administrative offices find information or customising Administration services for citizens and companies, with which this practice should form part of the content of teaching on agents used in electronic government. Finally she suggested that the regulation of agents, which hardly exists in Europe but does already exist in the US, should be the object for courses on electronic government, given their practical use and the confusion caused by the current lack of legal doctrine.
6. Technical Proposals
There were seven technical papers which described the content of specific teaching and learning developments including:
A distance-teaching technical environment and approach in the field of electronic government (Michael Sonntag, University of Linz, Austria and Silke Palkovits, BOC ITC GmbH, Vienna, Austria);
A teaching programme on electronic government aimed at a public comprised of engineering students and jurists carried out by an Engineering School (Luis Guijarro, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain);
The construction of a teaching programme on electronic government based on an experiment carried out at an Engineering School in a course on Management of Knowledge (Peter Parycek, Danube University Krems, Austria);
A training programme for public civil servants in electronic government, involving an introduction to the use of computer applications (Jose Luis Bermejo, University of Zaragoza, Spain); and
The advantages and disadvantages of public use software *in teaching of e-government for public administrators (Oliver Glassey, Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, Switzerland)
7. The Round Table
The Meeting ended with a round table, coordinated by Fernando Galindo (University of Zaragoza, Spain). Information was provided on the actions recently carried out by the group of participating universities in the field of teaching on electronic government and European projects presented to the Erasmus thematic network call and to the Sixth Framework Programme. These projects are in the process of being evaluated at the present time.
The delegates also heard from Jean Michel of Schlumberger Sema, a learning development corporation, Jordi Aymerich of FESTE, a Foundation involving the Associations of Spanish and Uruguayan notaries, and Beatrice Noverraz of APTICE, a non-profit Association APTICE involving academic institutions, public entities, companies and individuals. General approval was expressed for collaboration with such organisations in initiation of proposals for learning development and research initiatives in e-government and CIT to be placed before the European Union. The first step for this action is going to be the establishment of a consortium of Universities, which, together with specialised companies and interested institutions, offer distance learning courses about the law that regulates information and communication technologies, and of course, electronic government.
See also The List of Papers
Details about the Workshop Proceedings Book