Germany's Federal Government wants to provide all services of the federal administration electronically by 2005. But at present, e-government is still in its early stages in Germany.
German Interior Minister Otto Schily
Anyone who has lived in Germany undoubtedly has tales to tell about German bureaucracy. If you move from one city to another, for instance, you're likely to spend hours waiting in line at different administrative offices.
After moving, you'll need to register in the your new home town. The place to do this is the 'Einwohnermeldeamt', the local government office for registration of residents. In addition, you might have to wait in line at the 'Sozialamt', the social welfare office and at the 'Amt für Wohnungswesen', the public housing office.
If you're a foreigner, you'll probably also make a trip to the 'Ausländeramt', the office for foreigner affairs and the 'Arbeitsamt', the employment office, which grants work permits.
All in all, you can count on spending a few days running around in order to fulfil all the administrative requirements.
Making life easier with e-government
This week, Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily announced plans to introduce e-government services in Germany. By the year 2005, the German government hopes it can offer 376 administrative services online.
People in Germany would then be able to handle customs matters via the internet, for example, or apply for student loans online. Germany's 170,000 Conscientious objectors each year would just have to send an e-mail detailing why the mandatory military service is out of the question for them. And anyone applying for state grants could simply download the necessary forms from the internet.
If everything goes as Schily plans, computer-savvy citizens will be able to save a lot of time and hassle. But making life easier for the people in Germany wasn't necessarily the Interior Minister's main intention: Schily wants to save money. His goal is to have an "administration which achieves more and costs less," the minister explained.
Until the end of 2005, Germany's Interior Minister plans to invest some 1.65 billion euro ($ 1.47 billion)
into the e-government project. Once the whole project is up and running, Schily hopes he'll be able to save 400 million euro ($ 357 million) each year on administrative costs.
Long way to go
Germany is still far from realizing these ambitious plans. According to an IBM study, only half of the administrations of the 10,000 biggest German cities even have a website. And most of these don't have any inter-active elements yet.
Germany also rated poorly in a comparative study of NetIntelligence of European Union governments. Irish Government sites were rated best in the third "Internet Intelligence Study" conducted by PoliticsOnline, Inc. and Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University this year. Ireland was followed closely by the United Kingdom.
The survey evaluated websites of prime ministers, parliaments, and the economics and social affairs ministries of each of the fifteen EU member nations. Germany came in eleventh.
Hard times for foreigners
At present, foreigners in Germany who want to get their paperwork done via the internet will find it difficult if they're not fluent in German. The e-government websites are mostly in German.
Even though there are some 2.5 million Turkish people living in Germany, there is no information on the e-government website in Turkish.
The only foreign-language information on the website is in English. But the English texts are mainly speeches detailling what e-government could and should one day be.
There are no foreign-language forms to download and there is no information about administrative requirements for foreigners in Germany.