Opportunities of digital administration

* Final report approved by parliament - project results are currently being prepared for publication.

Digital transformation promises to increase efficiency and effectiveness in administration. The project explores the potential for change offered by artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger and blockchain technologies.


Background and central aspects of the topic

Digital transformation promises an increase in efficiency and effectiveness in almost all areas of public service and administrative action. It can be used for triggering a redesign of administrative services as well as of work and communication processes both within the administration itself and between the administration and its customers. The proclaimed objective of digital administration is to improve performance and service, but at the same time to reduce expenditure and bureaucracy. Further, the potential of digital public services can be found in an increased transparency in terms of availability and accessibility of information (open data, open government) and stronger participation of citizens in processes of political opinion-forming and decision-making. By means of new technologies, transformations of entire authorities and new administrative services are conceivable, such as those discussed in related thematic contexts like »smart city« or »real-time government«.

International and European studies point to a below-average availability of digital public services in Germany. Thus, for example, the European Commission annually determines how far digitisation has progressed in the Member States (Digital Economy and Society Index [DESI]). In this index, Germany ranks at position 21 with regard to »public services« and is thus far below the EU average. In studies, Estonia, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark are highlighted as European innovation countries.

Moreover, the fact that Germany shows a structural deficit regarding the digitisation of its administration is increasingly raised as a problem in political discussions. Meanwhile, the digitalization of administration has been taken up in the German Federal Government’s Coalition Agreement and linked to various measures. Accordingly, a Digital Council has been set up recently by the German Federal Government. In 2013 already, the Federal Government's E-Government Act (»EGovG«) came into effect, which was quickly followed by corresponding laws in most of the German Länder. Moreover, Germany has set a target for public administration by introducing the Online Access Act (»OZG«) in 2017: As of 2022, all services for citizens and companies shall be digitally accessible via online portals, regardless of whether they are provided by the Federal Government, the Länder or municipalities.

Objectives and approach

The TA study will be based on a prospective analysis of technology development and its innovation potential with regard to the further development of public administration in Germany. In this context, the potential for change offered by artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger and blockchain technologies as well as green IT in public administration is intended to play a special role. Good practice examples of the digitalisation of administrative processes from abroad (e.g. Estonia, Austria, Sweden) including the experience gained and lessons learned shall be incorporated in the analysis.

In a second step, three selected applications for innovative digital public services shall be examined and building upon this, innovation-oriented scenarios with regards to an implementation in Germany shall be developed. Given the broad range of tasks public administrations carry out, the potentials of digital transformation will not be considered comprehensively, but will be analysed and evaluated with regard to selected innovation and benefit potentials for the administration of the Federal Government, the Länder and municipalities as well as their various customers (other administrations within and outside Germany, companies, citizens). The scenarios are intended to address different areas of public administration. The presumed benefit for the administration and its customers shall be based either on technology potentials or on already applied good practice examples. From today's perspective, three fields of innovation are likely to be particularly relevant for developing the scenarios:

  • potentials of artificial intelligence for individual service and customer orientation in public administration,
  • potentials of blockchain applications for digital cooperation and networking of public administration,
  • potentials of green IT for accomplishing tasks of public administration in a sustainable way.

The scenarios will be developed for Germany (time horizon 2030) and will include practice-oriented descriptions of selected possible futures in the application context of the respective scenario. The study aims at both providing orientation knowledge and working out specific policy options with regard to how digital transformation can help perform various tasks of public administration more efficiently and effectively in selected fields of innovation.

Project progress

In June 2019, two external expert studies have been commissioned on the topics prospects of public administration through the use of innovative digital technologies and good practice examples of digital administrative processes from abroad which were evaluated by TAB. Based on this, the results of expert interviews to explore the change potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger and blockchain technologies (DLT, Blockchain) in more detail were incorporated into the preparation of the final report, which was approved by the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment and is currently being prepared for publication .