Yesterday, on 8 December, all EU Member States signed the Berlin Declaration on Digital Society and Value-Based Digital Government. The name refers to the place of signature, Berlin, where the ministerial meeting during the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union took place.
In the naming convention and in content, the Declaration follows up on the Tallinn Declaration signed in 2016 and the Malmö Declaration from 2009. It brings further the notion of "service-oriented, reliable and innovative government". The Berlin Declaration aims to strengthen "the pioneering role of public administrations in driving a value-based digital transformation of our European societies". It emphasises that governments have to "lead by example" to foster technological innovation and address societal challenges.
If European governments are supposed to lead the way in digital services, who is supposed to follow? Other governments outside Europe most likely, but beyond that? Can the private sector really learn from public administrations when it comes to digital service offerings? Can SAP, Amazon, or Nestle learn how to innovate technology, address client challenges, and be user centric?
The Berlin Declaration sets out seven principles how to lead the way in digital services:
1. “Validity and respect of fundamental rights and democratic values in the digital sphere;
2. Social participation and digital inclusion to shape the digital world;
3. Empowerment and digital literacy, allowing all citizens to participate in the digital sphere;
4. Trust and security in digital government interactions, allowing everyone to navigate the digital world safely, authenticate and be digitally recognised within the EU conveniently;
5. Digital sovereignty and interoperability, as a key in ensuring the ability of citizens and public administrations to make decisions and act self-determined in the digital world;
6. Human-centred systems and innovative technologies in the public sector, strengthening its pioneering role in the research on secure and trustworthy technology design; and
7. A resilient and sustainable digital society, preserving our natural foundations of life in line with the Green Deal and using digital technologies to enhance the sustainability of our health systems.”
What seemed far-fetched to me at first, governments as a role model for digital service offerings, starts to make sense when deep diving into these principles. I start to see how user centricity does not necessarily need to entail consumer analytics suggesting "Next best actions" to trigger sales. User centricity can mean designing services that empower users to make informed decisions. Suddenly, I can totally see how SAP, Amazon, Nestle just as law firms, supermarkets, telecommunication providers, consultancies, and retailors can learn from governments when it comes to their digital service offerings and when it comes to providing authentic and transparent information and equal opportunities and trustworthy technology design. Aren't goals like fairness, responsibility and sustainability something we would also hope for in the private sector? The sector where roughly 80% of us work in? Would we not feel great to try to live up to the Berlin Declaration principles as well?
I would like to challenge European companies to declare those principles, as well. I challenge my company to declare those principles for interacting digitally. And, I challenge the Support Centre for Data Sharing and the data sharing community to consider those principles when further designing and strategising the European data sharing spaces.