Photo:, CC0 Creative Commons

YES! topic 2018

eGoverning Germany: The Future of Public Administration

by Sebastian Blesse and Thomas Schwab, researchers at ZEW Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim.

Selected by Otto-Schott-Gymnasium Mainz-Gonsenheim

While digitalisation has been present for long and on the rise in all areas of life, the digitalisation of public administration in Germany is still in its infancy. Compared with other countries, Germany is only in the mid-range concerning eGovernment, at the most. The result of this is an inefficiently organised bureaucracy, the harmful effects of which can be felt by citizens by way of unnecessary official procedures, long processing times and mediocre quality.

The basic premise of public administration is that it should be organised economically and efficiently, at the same ensuring that the needs of citizens are met in the best possible way. In recent years, there have been several significant reorganisations due to reforms, such as municipal amalgamations. Cost reductions were often the primary focus of this. However, centralisation almost always resulted in a loss of closeness to citizens. The well-thought-out use of eGovernment could help to facilitate citizen participation across the board even in larger units.

This could be done from anywhere using complete digitalisation. It could, therefore, be established in more remote areas. By relocating parts of public administration to more remote regions, the economic stimulus could be given by establishing qualified job opportunities in a targeted way. Such relocation could potentially also create savings through cheaper rent for administrative buildings.

Increased use of eGovernment could also strengthen collaboration between individual authorities. In particular, there is a great need to make up ground in tax administration, as the lack of information exchange between individual administrative bodies has created opportunities for tax evasion and money laundering. As a result, Germany is missing out on billions in a loss of tax revenue while at the same time creating opportunities to invest money obtained through criminal means.

The increased use of eGovernment offers citizens significant potential for improvement in the area of tax administration in particular. For example, many things can be automated in the area of tax returns. It would, therefore, be possible for citizens to remove disturbing aspects while at the same time establishing a higher level of tax fairness.

There are numerous possibilities for eGovernment. Other countries like Estonia have successfully shown what the future of public administration in Germany could look like: almost all administrative procedures in Estonia today can be done from home.

How can eGovernment help citizens in everyday life? In which areas can eGovernment be reasonably and efficiently implemented in Germany? What advantages are there to digitalising administration? Are there drawbacks to eGovernment? How can eGovernment be pushed forward in Germany?

Beck, R./Fischer, D.-H./Hilgers, D./Hunnius, S./Krcmar, H./Krimmer, R./Margraf, M./Parycek, P./Schliesky, U./Schuppan, T./Stocksmeier, D. (2017): Digitale Transformation der Verwaltung-Empfehlungen für eine gesamtstaatliche Strategie, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh, abrufbar unter:  pdf, Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Buhr D./Frankenberger, R./Ludewig, A. (2017): Auf dem Weg zu Wohlfahrt 4.0 -Digitalisierung in Estland, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Berlin, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Blesse, S./Rösel, F. (2017): Was bringen kommunale Gebietsreformen? Kausale Evidenz zu Hoffnungen, Risiken und alternativen Instrumenten, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 17-049, abrufbar unter Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Bertschek, I./Erdsiek, D./Kesler, R./Niebel, T./Rasel, F. (2017): Chancen und Herausforderungen der Digitalisierung in Baden-Württemberg, Studie im Auftrag des Ministeriums für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst sowie Ministeriums für Inneres, Digitalisierung und Migration Baden-Württemberg, Juni 2017, abrufbar unter Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Europäische Kommission (2016): Mitteilung der Kommission an das Europäische Parlament, den Rat, den Europäischen Wirtschafts- und Sozialausschuss und den Ausschuss der Regionen‚ EU-eGovernment-Aktionsplan 2016-2020 Beschleunigung der Digitalisierung der öffentlichen Verwaltung`, SWD(2016) 108 final, SWD(2016) 109 final, Brüssel.

European Parlament (2015): eGovernment – Using technology to improve public services and democratic participation, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Gupta, S./Keen, M./ Shah, A./Verdier, G. (2017): Digital Revolutions in Public Finance, IMF, Washington.

Initiative D21 e. V./Institute for Public Information Management (ipima) (2016): eGovernment MONITOR 2016-Nutzung und Akzeptanz digitaler Verwaltungsangebote – Deutschland, Österreich und Schweiz im Vergleich, Berlin/ München, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Martini, M./Fritzsche, S./Kolain, M. (2016): Digitalisierung als Herausforderung und Chance für Staat und Verwaltung-Forschungskonzept des Programmbereichs „Transformation des Staates in Zeiten der Digitalisierung“, FÖV Discussion Papers No. 85, Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung, Speyer, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

OECD (2016): Digital Government Strategies for Transforming Public Services in the Welfare Areas, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Peichl, A. (2017): Notfalls allein gegen das Paradies, Zeit Online, 10. November 2017, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2014): United Nations E-Government Survey 2014, New York, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Wambach, A. (2017) : Aufholjagd 4.0 – Auch im öffentlichen Sektor, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Wambach, A. (2017): Wie der Staat die Digitalisierung verpennt, Zeit Online, 29. Oktober 2017, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Welch, E./Hinnant, C./Moon, M. (2005): Linking Citizen Satisfaction with E-Government and Trust in Government, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 15, No. 3, 371-391.

Yiu, C. (2012): The Big Data Opportunity-Making government faster, smarter and more personal, Policy Exchange, London, abrufbar unter: Zugriff: 27.11.2017

Sebastian Blesse

Sebastian Blesse joined ZEW’s Research Department „Corporate Taxation and Public Finance“ as a researcher in June 2015. His research interests focus on public economics, especially fiscal federalism and regional economics as well as applied econometrics.

Institution: ZEW – Centre for European Economic Research
YES! Participations: 2018, 2017


Thomas Schwab

Since February 2017, Thomas Schwab has been a researcher in ZEW’s Research Department „Corporate Taxation and Public Finance“. His research interests are company taxation and public finance.

Institution: ZEW – Centre for European Economic Research
YES! Participations: 2018, 2017