Local and regional governments must help lead the digital revolution in the European Union, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Karl-Heinz Lambertz said in Tallinn on Friday. Members of the Committee – the EU's assembly of local and regional governments – gathered in the Estonian capital to share best practises in public innovation and digital solutions that are transforming public services .
Karl-Heinz Lambertz , who was elected President of the CoR in July this year, said: "Estonia is one of the world's most advanced digital societies and pioneer in e-democracy and e-governance . The Estonian success story is the perfect demonstration of the potential the transition to a digital economy can have for public administration benefiting the lives of citizens. Local and regional authorities are at the forefront in developing new and better public services with digital solutions but the EU must ensure every region reaps the benefits of the digital revolution".
"In Estonia a number of public e-services have been developed for citizens. There is a clear potential both for improving the quality of existing services and for developing new cross-border e-services in the EU. If the digital signature alone saves an average of 5 working days per person per year, the benefits for the society are enormous,” said Jaak Aab, Minister of Public Administration of Estonia. “Municipalities provide an important and indispensable contribution to the development of public e-services, since they are closest to the citizen and therefore have the best understanding of what is needed", he added.
Taavi Aas , Acting Mayor of Tallinn, said: "Tallinn's digital success story has been recognised outside Estonia's borders. The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has chosen Tallinn five times among the seven most innovative communities in the world, and I have the great pleasure to announce that a few days ago we were informed that Tallinn has been chosen among the top 10 finalists of the European Innovation Capital 2017 award. "
While completing Single Digital Market is crucial to creating jobs and growth in Europe, President Lambertz emphasized that this must not be at the expense of social rights, social protection and consumer rights. He also said that more must be done against the growing disparities between EU regions: "The EU must invest to ensure no local government is left behind and guarantee that everyone has access to high-speed broadband to minimise the digital divide". To achieve this together with the EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society – Maria Gabriel – the CoR will launch a Broadband Platform on 12 October to strengthen cooperation between relevant public and private entities for broadband investment and progress in implementing national broadband plans. Given the importance of e-governance for local and regional governments, the Estonian EU Presidency has also asked the CoR to draft its official EU position paper – formally known as "opinion" – on the " Local and regional perspective on promoting public sector innovation via digital solutions " which will be adopted later this year.
The meeting in Tallinn was attended by members of the CoR's Bureau, which draws up the Committee's political programme at the start of each new term, oversees its implementation and generally coordinates the work of the institution. Bureau members include representatives from all 28 EU Member States and leaders of the CoR's five political groups.
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The CoR also encourages Estonian citizens to take part in the “Reflecting on Europe” initiative launched by the CoR and being led by its members across Europe. Through its online survey , it is building an "e-dialogue" by collecting thousands of responses by citizens during the six months of the Estonian presidency so they share their view on the future of Europe.
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