Opinion Factsheet  

Posílení místní správy a zastupitelské demokracie prostřednictvím nových nástrojů digitální technologie

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Opinion Number: CDR 830/2020
Rapporteur: PIHELGAS Rait
Commission: CIVEX
Status: Adopted
Date: 10/12/2020
 
In recent years, the widespread use of IT has fundamentally changed people's lives. Developments in technology have also transformed the governance process and created a new digital political arena. The new digital world we live in entails changes at local and regional level, the successful implementation of which depends to a great extent on LRAs' ability to grasp the opportunities associated with new digital technology and ICT tools and benefit from their potential to reinforce the quality of decision-making, and improve local governance.
The opinion highlights the role of digital technology for strengthening local democracy. It points out that the use of digital technology instruments and IT tools in local governance is an opportunity to provide people with high-quality public services, create a new environment for consultation and participation, provide high quality information, analyse public response, extend efforts to remote areas, reach out to the most disadvantaged citizens, incorporate the knowledge and expertise of citizens, and "co-create" policies according to their needs and expectations, and ultimately – enhance the legitimacy of our democratic system.
The opinion calls on all levels of government to make full use of available ‘civic tech’ digital tools; devote adequate financial, human and training resources; ensure affordable and high-speed digital infrastructure; prioritise the introduction of digital tools in all funds and programmes and use digital channels of their own to communicate with the public, with a view to ensuring that the information provided is reliable and relevant to local and regional needs
The opinion proposes revising the eligibility criteria for access to the Software as a Service (SaaS) Platforms which are now subscription-based so that the local and regional authorities have an easy access to ‘civic tech’ digital tools, including through EU funding for SaaS platforms. It is also suggested to the CoR to come up with measures to motivate and reward local and regional authorities so that they stiffen their commitment to the principles of open and inclusive administration which could create a new quality criterion in the future to measure the degree of democracy in local communities and allow for pooling best practices.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

- Notes that a new digital political arena is emerging; points out that the democratic processes should evolve and adapt to the changes, grasp the opportunities associated with new digital technology and ICT tools and benefit from their potential to reinforce the quality of decision-making, improve local governance, and enhance the legitimacy of our democratic system;

- Considers that local and regional tiers of government are the natural areas for applying "digital transformation"; going digital in local and regional authorities is an excellent opportunity to provide people with high-quality public services, create a new environment for consultation and participation, provide high quality information, analyse public response, extend efforts to remote areas, reach out to the most disadvantaged citizens, incorporate the skills, knowledge and expertise of citizens, and "co-create" policies according to their needs and expectations;

- Considers it important that local and regional authorities use digital channels of their own to communicate with the public, with a view to ensuring that the information provided is reliable and relevant to local and regional needs;

- Emphasises that citizens' participation should be founded on non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge, and equal and unhampered access to digital services; points out the need to narrow the digital divide through education and training, with a special focus on vulnerable or marginalised groups, and reaching out to rural and remote areas;

- Calls on all levels of government to devote adequate financial, human and training resources and ensure affordable and high-speed digital infrastructure, and to guarantee that it is accessible to all. Calls for funding to be made available to improve people's digital and media literacy through educational and training programmes in schools, as well as for local and regional authority staff and office-holders; recommends that local and regional authorities prioritise the introduction of digital tools in all funds and programmes;

- Expects that the introduction of various digital practices by local and regional authorities, which could entail a need for significant, one-off investment, will be part of the overall considerations of the new EU budget within the framework of the digital transformation;

- Shares the concern that local and regional authorities do not always have easy access to "civic tech" digital tools as they are often developed Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, which are subscription-based; recommends, if necessary, revising the eligibility criteria so that local and regional authorities can bring in new digital solutions and platforms in a simpler and more economical way, including access to EU funding for SaaS platforms.

- Proposes that the CoR come up with measures to motivate and reward local and regional authorities so that they stiffen their commitment to the principles of open and inclusive administration. This could create a new quality criterion in the future so that the degree of democracy in local communities can be measured and best practice pooled;

- Reiterates its call for strong cooperation and sharing of best practices between all levels of government to achieve better use and further upscaling of digital transformation of cities and communities; acknowledges that many national, regional and local cases can be taken as good examples of how digital technology tools can be used for the benefit of participatory democracy.
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