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Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth, Hon. Dr Jose` Herrera, has this week addressed the closing seminar of an ESF-funded project addressing improvement of online public services. Hon. Herrera outlined that it is essential that new government services are designed
around the end-user rather than expect the end-user to adapt to the service. A simpler service is necessary to shift the citizens’ and business’ preference towards online access to government services.
This project aimed at offering research-based guidelines to support e-Government services to become more efficient and convenient. Research amongst Maltese citizens has shown that the majority prefers to use the traditional public services rather than the online alternative. This needs to be addressed since Malta’s e-Government infrastructure has indeed received European awards but this is not being reflected in the usage of the online services.
MITA representatives gave an overview of the research undertaken and focused on the recommendations brought forward by the study. The study showed that traditional services are overly bureaucratic and often lead to time-wasting and frustration (having to take days off from work, etc.), yet are still pre-dominant over online use.
The policy recommendations include:
GRTU commended the policy recommendations and also expressed appreciation towards MITA’s work in terms of putting the public service forward especially in terms of infrastructural setup. GRTU however recognised that this will not succeed unless an actual tangible plan to instil a culture change within the public service to support eServices comes into effect.
Management processes within the public service have to prioritise online services and not afford that those who opt to use online services to be given the least priority when compared to those who use the telephone or present themselves physically at the respective government offices. The government service online has to feel personalised and be customer-, rather than process- or department-, oriented. The E-ID experience has proven that if the system is not customer-oriented it will fail despite the high quality standards in place. GRTU had given feedback that a pilot is necessary prior to launching such initiatives and that stringent security measures are not always necessary in each and every case, so much so that make the functions of a tool inefficient and non-usable.
Public servants also need to be trained to understand the exigencies of delays and bureaucracy on the self-employed and the small business. Keeping a file on a waiting list or undergo unnecessary complicated procedures can translate into costs which businesses cannot and should not bear. There also needs to be an efficient support system where online users can find support or report bugs when accessing specific services for the first time.
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