EU working towards a new digital identity

New interoperability solutions can help create a stronger, more competitive digital identity for Europe, writes Carlos Zorrinho.

By Carlos Zorrinho MEP

Carlos Zorrinho (PT, S&D) is Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

19 Oct 2015

Last month, the European Parliament and EU member states in Council came to an agreement on a new €131m programme to improve interoperability solutions for public administrations, companies and citizens, the ISA2 programme.

This agreement should allow any formal steps still missing to be met, with the programme coming into force on 1 January 2016, following similar previous programmes.

As well as the €131m being invested over the next five years, the legislative proposal by the European Commission, Parliament and the Council introduces many other innovations.


The work took into consideration that this programme should be, as far as possible, compatible with both the legislative framework of the digital single market and the political framework of the digital union.

The new technological dynamics and the evolution of the conceptual and juridical frameworks have been taken into consideration. The report was led by the Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee and included input from the internal market and civil liberties committees.

Behind all this work is the underlying ambition to contribute to the construction of a European digital identity that allows for the creation of better conditions in developing efficient public administrations that can be allied to the daily needs of companies and citizens.

The scope of what is considered an interoperable solution has been broadened. It is no longer simply interoperability solutions in the strictest sense but also common frameworks over which one can develop multiple solutions.

This is a structural change, since it takes into consideration the key role that interoperability solutions in public administrations, citizens and companies will have in the creation of a digital single market and a digital union.

As well as supporting the creation of reference solutions, the programme may help develop common semantics applicable to all solutions from inside and outside the ISA2.

This will increase its impact and contribute to the development of a strong and competitive digital identity for the EU.

Greater importance was given to the connection between public administrations, citizens and users.

This increased the emphasis on guaranteeing citizens and companies, particularly SMEs, friendlier and more intuitive access conditions.

Although ISA2 mainly addresses support solutions, technological evolution tends to make the boundary between support and use increasingly fluid.

Therefore, the solutions and the benchmarks supported by the ISA2 should be friendly and intuitive. This will contribute to the mitigation of digital exclusion and favour the interoperability of the administrations, both between each other and between administrations and citizens and companies.

The digital single market goals give preference to applications with critical mass, either because these involve several administrations, or simply because they integrate solutions or reuse benchmarks and existing solutions.

The simplification of procedures is also valued, facilitating a greater use and the economic and social impact of benchmarks and solutions developed.

An incentive for the creation of user communities was introduced, since interaction with the promoters can create an improvement and encourage the permanent adaptation of common frameworks and solutions to the needs of both society and the economy.

Within such a technological field, and in a programme with a five-year horizon, it is crucial to guarantee the permanent knowledge of the administration with users and vice-versa, in order that the responses address the problems posed.

The introduction of the possibility for creating user communities that guarantee the permanent exchange of information with the administrations and with the Commission consolidates an essential advance.

A permanent alignment of the data protection and privacy criteria was guaranteed, along with the legal regulations in force at every step of the application procedure.

Some of the key concepts for the implementation of this programme are still at the internal debate phase within the European institutions.

Examples include the concept of internet neutrality and the regulations on privacy and data protection. The agreement accomplished allows the dynamic alignment of the implementation of the programme with the legal framework in force throughout the process.