The compatibility of claim and reality is one of those things in e-government. After the United Nations recently published a 300-page study with a digital ranking of metropolises, everyone who took note of the following was amazed: Berlin of all places tops the list of metropolises in the 193 member states as the best digital administration.
Why? Even the Berlin State Secretary for Digital and Administrative Modernization could not explain that, as the local press reported amusingly. The daily newspaper "B.Z." even suspected a "late April Fool's joke".
Because in Germany's capital, residents often look in vain for appointments with the citizens' registration office and wait months for a new ID card that cannot be ordered online. It is not even possible to change your place of residence digitally.
Other observers also see Germany as being rather defeated. According to a survey by the statistics office Eurostat, the country is not even in the top 20 when it comes to the use of e-government.
And the "e-government monitor" of the non-profit association Initiative D21, which was recently published, paints a disappointing picture. "This year we see that the use of digital administrative services has hardly increased compared to the previous year," it says.
It's not due to the specifications. The Online Access Act (OZG) stipulates that the federal, state and local governments must offer 575 administrative services digitally via the Internet by the end of the year at the latest.
That will hardly succeed. Because as of August, according to D21, there were only 49 services that can be processed completely digitally.
Citizens would certainly be interested in a broader range. According to a representative survey by the digital association Bitkom, three out of four Germans would like to communicate digitally with authorities in the future.
"What is a matter of course in countries like Denmark, people in Germany also want: to deal with official business independently of time and place," says Bitkom President Achim Berg.
The offices would save mountains of files a meter thick, millions of letters would become superfluous, and the switch to paperless communication would not least make an important contribution to saving scarce resources such as wood and water and protecting the climate.
The administrative services that can be used digitally include applying for training grants, child benefit or unemployment benefits. But a large part of the population simply knows nothing about it. According to the D21 study, only 43 percent of those who want to contact the authorities use the available online services.
The experts have also found a term for this: the digital usage gap. In Germany it is 57 percent. For comparison: In Austria it is 42 percent, in Switzerland 46 percent.
But there are also administrative services in Germany that are exemplary. Almost three out of four citizens who submit a tax return have done so at least partially online. The second prime example has a bitter aftertaste:
According to D21, 70 percent have already made an appointment online to go to an authority - for an offline service that should actually be available online according to the OZG.
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