New cabinet wants to make Austria European role model in digitisation

h_53914043 [EPA-EFE/LISI NIESNER]

When it comes to digitisation, the new Austrian government of Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache wants to become a European role model. There is even unanimity over the basic framework. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“Reform gridlock” was one of the main accusations the old SPÖ-ÖVP government was confronted with in the public debate. This also applies to the IT-sector, where a number of proposals ended up in the waiting room.  During the ongoing coalition talks, both ÖVP and FPÖ agreed on an extensive digitalisation offensive.

But the package still has some shortcomings.

„Digital Academy“ promotes life-long learning

Priorities lie in the establishment of a Citizen and Entrepreneur Account [oesterreich.gv.at] to make it possible to do administrative processes online. The goal is to digitize ten of the most important administrative procedures, such as being able to access the identity card or the driving license via a smartphone app.

This continues an initiative that was already launched by the first black-and-blue coalition. With this, already in 2005, all state-insured citizens had been equipped with the so-called eCard.

The eCard is a personal chip card of the electronic administration system of the Austrian National Security (health, accident, pension and unemployment insurance). It allows doctors, hospitals and pharmacies to access the data of the insured.

What was a pioneering achievement in Austria back then still has to become reality for many EU countries.

In addition to the comprehensive expansion of the broadband network, the digitisation paper of the coalition negotiators also includes the harmonisation of IT equipment in the area of federal, state and municipal administration and the integration of educational institutions.

An online platform for lifelong learning will be set up under the title of “Austrian Digital Academy”.

Google and Facebook to be taxed

As part of the creation of digital business premises, a tax loophole also has to be closed, which means that companies such as Google or Facebook must also tax their profits where they make them, meaning in Austria. In case there is no support at EU level, Austria wants to go solo here.

Looking at the negotiation catalogue of the individual ministries that are still in existence (a new division of ministries is usually planned after the formation of a new government), then digitisation is an agenda item in every single one.

In this context, the Ministry of the Interior could be a central coordination point, as it already manages all citizens’ data anyway. Also under discussion are a new Ministry of Future or the direct subordination to the Federal Chancellor. “Allocation and delegation have not yet been the subject of negotiations,” EURACTIV was told.

Mobility platform as decisive point

In addition to the IT initiatives already mentioned, there are still some gaps to be filled. Among other things, these concern the creation of a cultural platform, which is of vital importance for a country like Austria, which has a particularly rich pool of cultural assets.

And on this matter, there might be a heavy political trial of strength.

On the one hand, the state-owned company Federal Railways, which the socialist trade unionists like to regard as their sphere of influence. Its former director-general and current SPÖ-chairwoman has left some problem areas in the company, to the displeasure of the new leadership.

On the other, the transport companies of the city of Vienna, who count on the support of the red-green city government.