IDP2014 (X). Julián Valero: From digitalization to technological innovation: A juridical assessment of the modernization process of Public Administrations in the last decade

Notes from the 10th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: A decade of transformations, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 3-4 July 2014. More notes on this event: idp2014.

Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo, Professor, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Julián Valero. Professor of Administrative Law at the University of Murcia (Spain).
From digitalization to technological innovation: A juridical assessment of the modernization process of Public Administrations in the last decade

From digitization to technological innovation. The good thing about ICTs is especially the innovation they can bring with them into governments.

Is open government, open data, transparency a hype? Or is it a true believe in how things can be made different (and better)? It seems that the paradigm of accessing a document to be able to begin a procedure is over, that the government is already beyond that stage.

But many times it is not so: the government still creates laws (like the Spanish Law of Transparency) for the past, where the paradigm still is the standard procedure but digitized. With no improvement. We regulate access to documents, when citizens ask for access to data.

The theory is that we’re heading towards a smart government that provides services on demand. But it is a real practice only in very few cases.

The intensive use of technology has implied the appearance of new intermediaries between the administration and the citizen: technological intermediaries. And this appearance of new intermediaries often have an impact with legal issues. E.g. if I cannot access public information due to technological questions, who is liable for not respecting my right to information?

To be able to provide a 24×7 service, the administration now “lives in the cloud”… with all the strings attached to this decision: where are the citizen data, whose are those data, how to enforce the law or the service, etc.

And these problems get even worse when we speak about smart cities and big data.

We need technical norms as a guarantee of the juridical norms. We need technical knowledge to be able to design and enforce the best laws.

If we believe that ICTs can improve efficiency, we need to automate some procedures. Get rid of the human that is only clicking ‘next’ ‘next’ ‘next’ and adding no value. This is a major challenge for public law, but one that needs being addressed. And being addressed from the start, when we are designing the technological tools. Regulatory frameworks and technological deployments should evolve in parallel.

We have to tell content from container. What matters is not the container, but content; what matters is not the document, but data. And this content has to be accessed with the independence of the container: we need open linked data.

Challenges?

We have to reset our legal guaranties. To assert our rights. To simplify procedures… or just get rid of the concept of “administrative procedure”… or to create ad-hoc and on-time procedures.

Discussion

Nacho Alamillo: the lobbies of the industry are setting up de facto standards (which often become de iure standards) but there are no representatives of the citizenry in the agoras where the lobbies meet. What should we do about that? Julián Valero: this is a very wicked issue. Yes, the citizens should participate in these debates, but we do not how. To regulate the participation in these agoras would not be enforceable or realistic. Maybe focusing on where the norm is applied (e.g. contracting some technologies) would be a better approach.

10th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2014)

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