31 (126) 2017
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Digitisation in Poland: Achievements and Challenges for the Future

by Krzysztof Szubert, Secretary of State and the Government Plenipotentiary for Digital Single Market
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The dynamic technological progress that we've been witnessing for several years now has an enormous impact on the functioning of modern economies and societies.

The dynamic technological progress that we've been witnessing for several years now has an enormous impact on the functioning of modern economies and societies.

High-tech digital solutions, such as cloud computing, big data or the Internet of Things are increasingly used widely in the production chain. The development of telecoms – and especially of the fifth-generation mobile network (5G) – offers new possibilities in interpersonal communication. Because the process of digitisation is going at a mesmerising rate,  the majority of countries include it in their economic policy and consider it a key factor of their growth. To face global competition from Asia or the US, Europe is also making a consolidated effort so that it can become the leader of digital transformation. Harmonisation and unification of policies and legislation in that domain should contribute to achieving that goal. As a result, the scope of legislative and non-legislative measures taken within the EU is constantly expanding. Activity in this field is stimulated by the European Commission and the member states themselves, which put digital issues important for the EU economy on the European agenda.

Digitisation is continuously moving forward. The mission of the Ministry of Digital Affairs is to keep up with those changes, react swiftly, adopting measures which will benefit citizens, and to come up with new solutions. We want digitisation to be the support that Poland needs to make its civilisational leap, placing our country among the leaders of highly developed countries with regard to access to state-of-the-art solutions from the ICT domain. We're hoping our digitisation activities will contribute to people living better lives. That's why we resolutely implement the tasks we set ourselves in strategic documents, which we adopted soon after our Ministry was formed. We believe that digitisation is not just about buying hardware and software, but that it’s about transforming the state. This requires us to act at the national and international level. Only a modern and efficient public administration, and a state that's creating favourable conditions for the development of digital skills and innovation will let us face the global challenges of technological transformation and allow us to fully benefit from it.

For this purpose, we've significantly reorganised the Ministry and adopted a project and goal-oriented approach. We're cooperating with many valuable ICT experts, whose experience in the business sector gives a modern face to the Polish administration.

Some examples of the Ministry’s successful activities at the national level include the possibility to apply for the 500+ benefit via online banking, check penalty points online (since April 2017, almost 300,000 citizens have used that service), or create, via online banking, a safe profile (Profil Zaufany) – a tool that makes it possible to certify one’s identity on the internet. The number of people that have used the last service has exceeded one million. Nevertheless, we continue to work on introducing new measures to make the life of  citizens and businesses easier. The number of e-services offered by the Ministry has  reached 580.

One of the key initiatives we are working on is a project aiming at upgrading citizens’ digital skills, so that they can benefit from technological progress and use it not only for entertainment, but also in their professional life. It's called the National Education Network (Ogólnopolska Sieć Edukacyjna, OSE). The goal is to connect all schools in Poland to high-speed internet (with bandwidth of at least 100 Mb/s). The first 1,500 schools will be connected by the end of 2018, and all 19,500 of them by 2020. The implementation of the OSE will result in a civilisational change in children’s education, transitioning from analogue (books) to digital. It will also make it possible to give equal educational opportunities to all pupils in Poland, especially to those living in less-populated areas and studying in schools with a small number of pupils. For those children, access to modern sources and streams of knowledge is vital to make the most of their potential.

Another important project of our Ministry is mDocuments. This e-service will allow a citzien to prove their identity or – at next stages – certify their rights with a mobile phone. The project will ultimately cover documents like the ID card, driving license or student ID. mDocuments will be an optional solution, complementary to the documents’ paper form. Those wishing to continue using traditional documents will still have the possibility to do so. This project is  part of a bigger programme to build a system of digital identity – eID. In the long term, digital identity will speed up administrative procedures, as well as ensure greater accessibility of public administration’s and commercial services.

The efficacy of our efforts is proven by Poland’s gradual rise in digital sector rankings. In the DESI 2017 ranking (Digital Economy and Society Index), thanks to progress in human resources, Internet use, and connectivity we have advanced to 23rd place. And in the most recent OECD ranking Open, Useful, Reusable Government Data (OUR Data Index),  published in Government at a Glance 2017, we're in 20th place, eight places higher than in 2015. This was possible thanks to legislative changes made last year: the act on reusing public-sector information came into force in June 2016. Last September, the Council of Ministers adopted the Opening Public Data Programme, implementing OECD recommendations set out in Open Data Review of Poland, and to the European Commission’s assessment Open Data Maturity.

We also have new challenges ahead of us.  We want the Polish administration to be modern, efficient, and citizen-friendly. To do that, we're working on creating the gov.pl portal – the one place citizens will be able to reach the public administration, where they will have access to information on the entire government administration and to the continuously expanding offer of digital services.

We're also strengthening our activity in the international arena, in particular by being involved in the creation of the Digital Single Market. The Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM) is the main document of the European Commission outlining the EU’s planned activities in the digital domain. The strategy’s objective is to eliminate the existing barriers which hinder Europe’s digital development. The creation of a digital single market is supposed to help European businesses expand their activity on a global scale, and provide consumers with a larger selection of products and services of higher quality and lower prices. The DSM is a market with a huge potential for economic growth and of exceptional value. According to the estimates of the European Commission, it encompasses more than 500 million people, and can bring profits exceeding €415 billion a year.

The wide range of issues covered by the DSM requires a coordinated and coherent representation of Poland’s interests in foreign relations. That's why I was appointed the Government Plenipotentiary for the Digital Single Market. As plenipotentiary, one of my main tasks is to draw up legal or organisational solutions for implementing the principles of the DSM. Right now, I am working on a mechanism of cooperation between ministries and state institutions involved in projects covered by the DSM strategy – the Ministries of Development, Culture and National Heritage, Justice, Infrastructure and Construction, Science and Higher Education, Foreign Affairs, as well as the National Broadcasting Council. On 12 September 2017, I took part in a session of the Council of Ministers to present Poland’s international activity in the digital domain, and to encourage further collaboration and information exchange between ministries to make our international voice stronger.

Consolidation of the state administration’s efforts in the domain of international cooperation is all the more necessary in view of the mid-term review of the DSM Strategy’s published last May. In the review, the European Commission took stock of its achievements, showed the current state of affairs and announced the next course of action. It is clear that significant efforts will go towards supporting Europe's data economy. The goal is to ensure free movement of non-personal data within the EU, which is of great importance with the ever-growing relationship between trade and data flow, as well as the future development of technologies based on transfer of data. The European Commission estimates that in 2020, the European data market will be worth from €361 billion up to €739 billion (2.3%-4% of the EU’s GDP).1 Poland, with its qualified personnel and appropriate infrastructure has huge potential in this regard, and thus is particularly interested in adopting regulations ensuring the free flow of data. In December 2016, Poland together with 13 EU member states from the Like-Minded Group adopted a joint position on the free movement of data. We urged the Commission to present a legislative proposal eliminating unnecessary requirements relative to the data localisation. I'd like to emphasise the important role played in the Like-Minded Group by the UK. We hope for further constructive and friendly cooperation with our British partners on other digital topics raised by the group. Last May, a group of 15 EU member states led by Poland sent another letter to the European Commission, demanding quick action for establishing the EU’s position on the free movement of data in trade agreements.

Poland is prepared for a fact-based discussion on the validity of removing unnecessary barriers in the movement of data. The Ministry of Digital Affairs has ordered a scientific analysis, which comprehensively shows measurable benefits stemming from the development of economy based on the free movement of data. The analysis was published on 3 October.

Another important point of the European digital agenda is the development of the 5G network. The first steps for harmonisation among EU Member States in that domain were taken last July during a summit of telecoms and competitiveness ministers. A declaration was signed confirming the will of the EU countries to make Europe the leading global market of the 5G network’s development. This needs a transparent, predictable and future-oriented regulatory framework, allowing investments in a competitive market. Ministers also agreed that the 5G network is crucial for ensuring further digital development,  benefiting consumers and businesses across all sectors of economy. It will also help boost Europe’s competitiveness. Poland is adopting measures that will allow us to become one of the 5G technology leaders. Even though final standards for 5G networks and devices are still being defined, our country is already preparing to implement the 5G network. Adequate frequency resources are the key problem. We're working to ensure adequate resources for the 5G network on the international and the national level, also by solving legal issues. At the end of June, together with telecoms operators, chambers of commerce, providers of services, equipment and solutions for telecoms, R&D institutions and technical universities, we concluded an agreement for a 5G for Poland strategy. The goal is to draw up the strategy by the end of this year, the first step towards the implementation of the 5G network in Poland.

We don't forget about the cybersecurity aspect – the common denominator for all digital matters. For modern economy and society to develop freely, it's vital to undertake measures to strengthen cybersecurity. On 13 September, the European Commission published a package of documents, including legislative ones, dealing with cybersecurity. We intend to be an active participant of the debate that will take place in relation to the EC’s initiative. Our Ministry is going to coordinate the process of consultation of the Government’s position on the published package. On 9 May, premier Beata Szydło signed a resolution of the Council of Ministers on the National Framework for Poland’s Cybersecurity Policy in 2017-2022. This document sets out the government's strategic approach to issues of cybersecurity in a broad sense. Currently, the Minister of Digital Affairs oversees the activities of a working group composed of representatives of various government authorities, tasked with drawing up an Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Framework for the Cybersecurity Policy. The outcome of their work will be a list of measures, the implementation of which will make it possible to achieve the goals set out in the adopted document. The list will be submitted for the Council of Ministers’ approval.

Issues relative to digital progress are of a horizontal nature, permeating all spheres of economic activity and social life. As a result, last June, under the leadership of our Prime Minister Beata Szydło, 17 EU leaders submitted  a letter to the President of the European Council stressing the need to put digital matters at the highest political level of the EU. The document was signed by the premiers of Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK, as well as the president of Lithuania. The initiative largely led to the first summit of the European Council – well organised by Estonian presidency - dedicated solely to digital matters which took place on 29 September in Tallinn.

Realising the enormous potential of the Digital Single Market, in all our activities, we emphasise the need to make it more open to innovation and new business models. We call for the removal of unnecessary administrative and legal restrictions that hamper the development of this market, replacing them with solutions that are transparent, fair and responsive to real needs of society and markets. That's because we want the largest possible number of citizens and businesses to benefit from the DSM. We're certain that this approach is the only one which can let the EU become a true global leader of digital progress.

1. Communication from the European Commission: Building a European data economy COM(2017)09

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