User focused and data driven Digital transformation by European institutions and governments

The digitalization of public administrations is a key priority for European institutions, and specifically for the European Commission.



Charles Delancray - [Sponsoring] Partner - Technology - Deloitte

Elisa Pizzi - Senior Consultant - Policy - Deloitte

Emanuele Baldacci - Director - Digital Services, DG DIGIT - European Commission

Published on 9 June 2020


Digitalization appears as one of the six headlines of the Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024 led by the President Ursula von der Leyen. In this context, digital transformation should not be regarded as a priority per se. It is, in fact, interconnected to the ambitions of the current European Commission (EC) by positively impacting the Green Deal and the economy, and by protecting our way of life.

For public administrations, such as European institutions and governments, digitalization is a significant and considerable transition. The EC aims to move fast and with sufficient strength and resources to push the digital agenda forward.

In Luxembourg, the establishment of the Digital pole and the collaboration between the EC and local authorities make the Grand Duchy a strategic place for the development of the digital ecosystem in the European Union (EU).

Digital transformation at the top of the EU agenda

Emanuele Baldacci: The EC is a catalyst of the digital transformation strategy and aims to redesign services in ways that facilitate citizens’ interaction with public administrations across the EU. This will be made possible by:

  • Putting users (citizens) at the center of the service provision mechanism, and
  • Facilitating and improving a user centric design.

To foster these principles, the administrative machinery needs to change. This is why not only European institutions but also governments of EU member states should be involved for a successful implementation of the digital strategy. The orchestration of a digital strategy at the government level is important and politically sensitive.

For this reason, the EC embraces the approach followed by member states with respect to their digital transformation and continues to engage with government CIOs and the offices of key CIOs from each EU member state.

Charles Delancray: Digital transformation and strategy means rethinking every aspect of a business and the ways in which an organization works. This also implies the design and implementation of a new digital strategy from digital concept to digital reality as well as the design of new services and products.

Key enablers: challenges and opportunities

Emanuele Baldacci: The strategies, programs and funding instruments launched by the EC to promote digital transformation include, among others, the Digital Single Market strategy, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding instrument, the ISA2 program and the new Digital Europe program.

2020 is a crucial year, representing the latest phase of implementation of CEF and ISA2. From 2021, the new Digital Europe program will be in place with an overall draft budget, subject to political agreements, of 9.2 billion. The program will enable to develop standards and applications that can be reused by member states. There is strong support for the Digital Europe program that can be seen as part of a larger program supporting the development of infrastructures in both the public and the private sector within the EU.

Other initiatives led by the EC are:

  • The building of a reusable data platform to minimize the use of tailor-made IT solutions for generic tasks,
  • The move to managed services in certain areas like identity and access management while maintaining a central capability management.

Overall, the Digital Europe program is part of a broader set of interventions on digitalization, that includes EU programs such as Horizon Europe as well as resources provided by member states.

One of the main challenges to be managed in order to achieve the goals of the Digital Europe program, is the development of more modern infrastructures based on Cloud technology, plus a layer of data services allowing to exploit and connect data. It will also be important to develop horizontal capabilities such as data management, governance, and analytics. Today these capabilities exist, but in a fragmented way.

Another challenge identified at government level is the implementation of the principles embedded in the Tallinn declaration on e-government. The declaration renews the EU commitment towards user-centric digital public services for citizens, and seamless cross-border public services for businesses.

Charles Delancray: The renewal of programs and funding instruments by the EC will definitely foster competitiveness at the EU level. Investments in the digital domain across the EU will promote the deployment of new technologies, the development of digital skills, and the use of interoperable services, therefore benefitting society and the economy.

Increased scalability and flexibility

Emanuele Baldacci: A centralized model belongs to the past. The EC recently approved the implementation of a Cloud strategy to be applied on internal IT systems. The Cloud strategy aims to promote digitalization across the EU, combined with programs supporting member states such as the European Cloud Initiative and the initiative on Building a European Data Economy. The purpose is to move first to public Cloud and to implement simultaneously public Cloud capabilities allowing for scalability and flexibility. The EC will access available technologies but also adapt its data center to follow a hybrid, multi-cloud approach.

On the development side, the Cloud approach will entail a drastic revamping of the way the EC works. The application of the future will not be based on monolithic applications but on the integration of different components. The role of developers will be to leverage on applications and tools from the public environment and from the Cloud, and to combine all of these elements with a hybrid Cloud.

The main concern is the governance that needs to be put in place around the Cloud environment. The goal for the EC is to build the governance around existing security framework methodologies and processes to avoid falling into the trap of a fragmented, non-secure portfolio of technologies.

The main issue related to the move to Cloud is the multifaceted question of security and privacy. In addition, contractual clauses need to be taken into account to ensure that the use of public Cloud is compliant with EU and national legislations.

At member state level, different appetites are observed: some countries embrace Cloud technologies as a key priority while other countries are less mature in that domain and currently focus on the consolidation of traditional data centers. In the future, the EC also expects to increase harmonization across member states in terms of dialogue with technology providers.

Charles Delancray: Nowadays, the move to Cloud solutions by the private and the public sector is a clear trend. The main inhibitors for the move to Cloud solutions are related to data security, compliance and legal issues as well as governance. Despite these challenges, Cloud solutions enable companies and administrations to transform their infrastructure by rationalizing applications and data.

The impact of digitalization on society, the environment and climate

Emanuele Baldacci: Alignment is required across governments within the EU regarding the impact of digital services on sensitive areas such as the climate, the environment and smart cities. Empowering citizens is also very important.

The implementation of principles such as a user-centric design, integrated solutions, and share and reuse benefits both citizens and the environment.

A user-centric design implies increasingly automated and tailored services. The integrated solutions principle specifically aims to improve efficiency for citizens and administrations, while the share and reuse principle mainly refers to cross-organization coordination and collaboration.

In addition, the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a single digital gateway aims to facilitate the digital accessibility of services for citizens and businesses.

This allows to ultimately reduce the administrative burden and enables businesses and people to move and operate across the EU in a seamless way. The availability of generic, reusable solutions is cornerstone of the single digital gateway, allowing fundamental tasks for the authorization, transmission and exchange of data to be carried out in a secure and reliable way.

Finally, strengthening citizens’ trust and enhancing the control and sharing of data are also key elements. In light of the regulatory environment, there is increasing demand from citizens to have better control of their data (GDPR regulation) and to be informed about how it is used. European institutions are at the forefront of this. The aim for institutions is to develop services that would allow the use of data to build specific applications and services. In the near future, citizens will be notified or alerted when an automatic cross-border request for their data is made. This is also part of the approach of the single digital gateway.

Charles Delancray: Public administrations, including governments, need to improve how they interact with stakeholders. Customer relationship management (CRM) enables institutions to understand customers’ needs and to ultimately implement customer-focused solutions, leading to enhanced customer interactions.


1. Von der Leyen, “A Union that strives for more. My agenda for Europe”, 2. European Commission, “Shaping the Digital Single Market”, 3. European Commission, “Connecting Europe Facility in Telecom”, 4. European Commission, “About ISA2”, 5. European Commission, “Digital Europe Programme: a proposed 9.2€ billion of funding for 2021-2027”, 6. European Commission, “Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on establishing a single digital gateway to provide information, procedures, assistance and problem solving services and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012”, 7. European Commission, “Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment – the Tallin Declaration”,


  • The EC is driving the digital transformation of public administrations across the EU by collaborating closely with other European institutions and with national governments.
  • Currently, not only the public sector but also businesses can take advantage of the programs and initiatives launched by the EC to foster innovation and to facilitate seamless interactions with citizens.
  • The Cloud strategy has recently been approved by the EC as a mean to boost scalability and flexibility; certain challenges have to be faced in relation to the move to Cloud, notably security and privacy aspects as well as compliance with contractual clauses.
  • The digitization of public services leads to considerable benefits for both citizens and the environment by reducing the administrative and bureaucratic burden, and by enhancing citizens’ trust.

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