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COMMENTARY

EU and Singapore: accelerating digital transformation and delivering value

IT is a pleasure for me to visit Singapore, one of the world's most forward-looking, dynamic and innovative hubs. Singapore embraces change and has been constantly re-inventing itself for so many years as a trailblazer in the area of digital government.

On May 16, I participate in the OpenGov Leadership Forum entitled "Digital Cities: Accelerating Digital Transformation". This forum focuses on the digital disruption acceleration in Singapore. I will be co-hosting the OpenGov Gamification Table on Cloud and speaking on cyber resilience, digital workspace and emerging technologies.

Digital transformation is about people and technology. The "people" element is key to unlock the value of digital transformation while the "technology" element makes sure that digital transformation delivers.

I strongly believe that people are at the centre of any transformation. The mission, the skills and tools are continuously changing and we need to keep our people engaged and unlock their ideas. To do this, we must create the right environment: tools to work anytime, anywhere; an attractive office space; access to data and the means to help them make sense of that data.

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Most importantly, we need to give people the opportunity to continuously learn, through new techniques like micro-learning. Digital skills are not only for IT experts but also for those on the receiving end of technology. This is a basic requirement to successfully master our digital transformation.

To fully unlock the technology element in a digital transformation journey, we need to define clear frameworks and standards. We need to create a digital eco-system where data flows seamlessly. Both Singapore and the European Union are front-runners in this area. Singapore has launched its national e-authentication and digital signature scheme, which is now used in public e-services and in the banking industry. In the European Union, we have created specific regulation on electronic identity and trust services, commonly known as "the eIDAS Regulation". This regulation facilitates the recognition of electronic identification schemes across borders. We, the European Commission, have been active both on setting the policy rules and in helping the European Union member states set up the technical infrastructure to implement eIDAS.

DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET

This is a typical feature of our work at the European Commission: we work cross-border by default. We help the Commission's departments deliver value to European citizens and to cooperate with the European Union member states

The European Union aims to set up the Digital Single Market, to facilitate the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour in the digital domain. That is a very concrete outcome for all European citizens living and working abroad and for more than 22.3 million small and medium-sized enterprises operating across member states' borders, or willing to do so.

Efficient and accessible public services are essential for any cross-border activity. In practice, this means citizens can easily access digital public services, from wherever they work or live. It also means interoperable public services, so that countries can exchange data and ask the citizens for their data once only.

To support delivery of interoperable public services, the European Commission has set up the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). It defines the blueprint for an interoperable public service, the principles and recommendations to implement it.

Programmes like "Interoperability solutions for public administrations, business and citizens" (ISA2) and "Connecting Europe Facility" (CEF) fund and support solutions to implement the EIF and facilitate the delivery of EIF-compliant digital public services. In doing so, they build a set of blocks that provide a solid basis for delivery of EU-wide cross-border and cross-sectorial public services.

At the international level, we recognise the importance of working with partners, such as Singapore, on interoperability aspects to deliver digital public services. EIF and the supporting blocks are reusable solutions that have the potential to be adopted at both the national and regional levels.

Another topic of common interest is cybersecurity. Asean just created its own Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence in Singapore. Despite the rapid emergence of new technologies in combating increasingly complex cyber threats, we need to pay more attention to the human factor. We need to improve the awareness and understand behaviours of our workforce, and adopt a people-centric view on cybersecurity.

Singapore and the European Union are driving the digital transformation in government, and it will be most valuable to share experiences. I look forward to discussions and exchanges with leading experts and practitioners.

  • The writer is director-general for informatics at the European Commission, European Union.