Citizen’s rights campaign warns Commission on digital exclusion

The Keep Me Posted EU campaign welcomes the European Commission’s intention to develop an eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 with the aim to “ease the life of Europeans and make sure public services are better connected across borders[1]” and appreciates the opportunity offered to stakeholders to have their say in the ongoing public consultation. However, this plan should not be deployed at the expense of a vulnerable part of the European population.

The Keep Me Posted EU campaign supports the aim of the Digital Single Market, and the eGovernment Action Plan in particular, to “achieve cross-border interoperability and facilitate easy interaction with citizens[2]”. Our campaign’s supporters fully acknowledge the benefits of public administrations embracing new communication tools in certain areas in order to provide more efficient and modern public services.

 Social inclusion

However, the Keep Me Posted EU campaign would like to point out the risk of exclusion while promoting a Digital Single Market in Europe. Indeed, one out of five European households still have no access to the internet[3]. Furthermore, vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, rural communities and citizens with specific disabilities are disadvantaged when it comes to internet access and skills. Financial circumstances may also make it difficult for households to acquire the necessary equipment to access information online.

Citizens are increasingly being forced by private companies, in particular service providers – utility companies, banks, insurance companies – to communicate by electronic means regardless of citizens’ willingness or ability to use these communication means. Therefore, we believe that the European Commission should not send a wrong signal in proposing a single approach but should ensure that the right of citizens to choose how they communicate with their government is not taken away.

Accessible for all citizens

In its Communication, “A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe” from May 2015, the European Commission supports “an inclusive Digital Single Market”. Securing the right to choose how citizens access public administration is fundamental for the social inclusion of all European citizens.

EU policy already secures consumers’ protection – for financial services in particular – in offering consumers the right to access information “on paper and free of charge[4]. A European eGovernment policy should also safeguard this right for citizens.

With the upcoming eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020, we see an opportunity for the Commission to set the right policy conditions for efficient public services which make the best use of digital communication tools while ensuring citizens can access the same level of information by traditional communication means.


[1] Quote from Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, November 2015

[2] European Commission’s Communication “A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe”, May 2015

[3] Eurostat, 19%: level of internet access by households in 2014 in the EU28, September 2015

[4] Article 14 of Regulation 1018/2014, Article 63, 69 and 75 of Directive 2014/91 and Article 20 in the draft proposal for a revision of Directive 2002/92.