OZG- Stimulating Economic Growth

The OZG brings movement into the digitization of public administration and drives cooperation between the federal, state and local governments to an unprecedented extent in the implementation of IT projects. With digital labs, uniform standards and reusable individual solutions, local authorities have a range of support options at their disposal. The key points of the economic stimulus package agreed on June 03, 2020 to combat the consequences of Corona also provide for a further financial injection of EUR 3 billion for OZG implementation. But how exactly do municipalities go about implementing the OZG in concrete terms - after all, the remaining implementation period is getting shorter and shorter?

The OZG as a digitization driver for public administration

When the Online Access Act (OZG, short for the German term Onlinezugangsgesetz) came into force in summer 2017, local authorities were given a central role in its implementation. Much has happened since then, and the OZG is increasingly living up to its claim as a digitization driver in public administration. Federal cooperation and collaboration on digitization has been coordinated by the Federal IT Cooperation (FITKO) since the beginning of 2020. In this role, the FITKO is taking the lead in driving forward the nationwide establishment of interoperable standards in OZG implementation.

These standardization measures are an important factor in the overarching OZG implementation in Germany. With all these measures, however, the success of the OZG will ultimately depend on the success of administrative digitization in the municipalities. At around 60 percent, the majority of administrative services relevant to the OZG are the responsibility of the municipalities. 23 services also fall within the regulatory competence of the municipalities. (Source: OZG implementation guide)

Great pressure on municipalities to implement the OZG quickly despite the pandemic

What this means for municipalities becomes clear when one considers the number of administrative services, some of which are complex, against the backdrop of the time horizon until the legally mandated implementation in 2022. Despite possible priority shifts caused by Covid-19, municipalities are called upon to tackle OZG implementation concretely and with high pressure. In fact, the pandemic has even highlighted the urgent need to catch up in digitization. But where does a municipality start? Which measures need to be implemented independently? Which standards and specifications must be met?

Five steps to successful OZG implementation

This article presents five basic steps along which municipalities can structure their OZG implementation and thus find answers to the previously mentioned questions. 

Step 1: Municipality-specific OZG implementation planning

The development of a detailed implementation plan forms the foundation of successful OZG implementation. This also includes the establishment of a resilient project organization in the form of an OZG coordination office, which is responsible for coordination and project organization throughout the entire period. Part of the implementation planning is the recording of all prioritized and other important OZG services as well as the creation of essential prerequisites for successful OZG implementation.

In this step, the possibility of using subsidies should also be examined, which are e.g. provided for in the course of the economic stimulus package to combat the consequences of Corona or are also made available through corresponding programs of the individual federal states.

Step 2: Establishing a target architecture

Next, the current state of the IT architecture should be recorded and reviewed, particularly with regard to the existing landscape of specialized procedures. The specialized procedures in use are analyzed with regard to their consolidation potential and their conformity to standards. This also requires a dialog with the providers of the specialized procedures. Finally, the decision on consolidation, expansion and/or updating of the specialist procedures in use forms the basis for establishing a target architecture. This basis also includes the use of the company's own basic services, which conform to the state's standards, as well as the integration of the state's necessary standard components. The introduction of middleware is a good way to establish efficient management of interfaces between the municipal service portal and specialized procedures. In addition to the modeling of interface relationships, the use of middleware can also increase transaction security.

Step 3: Connection to statewide portal offerings

From the point of view of the municipalities, it is difficult to implement the OZG on time within the framework of a completely independent implementation. The federal states have recognized this and, against this background, have in many cases created state-wide portal offerings for the municipalities. Baden-Württemberg, for example, has implemented a joint platform for the state and municipalities with service.bw, and Rhineland-Palatinate is taking a similar approach by initiating a central point of contact for all state and municipal administrations. There are also comparable examples from Bavaria, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. For many municipalities, the provision of offerings from the state and/or supraregional municipal associations or IT service providers offers one or the essential building blocks for their own OZG implementation. Freely accessible offerings of this type, which often include basic services such as user accounts, application wizards and payment components, offer the possibility of implementing the OZG on a small scale on the part of the municipality.

Adopting such services is at least a sensible intermediate step in municipal implementation of the OZG, since this ensures that OZG services can be used in conformity with the standard and saves the expense of in-house developments. Depending on the characteristics of the supraregional service, the municipal OZG implementation can also be fulfilled by connecting to it. However, consideration of the digital strategic orientation of a municipality also plays an important role here.

Step 4: Introduction of an own service portal

Depending on what is offered to municipalities by the state and the municipality's own ambitions, setting up its own service portal represents a further step toward implementing the OZG. There are many ways to implement your own portal. For most municipalities, it is advisable to use a standard solution offered by manufacturers of specialized processes or often also by municipal IT service providers.

Step 5: Drive forward digitization and automation

The OZG should not be seen purely as the creation of online access for citizens and the business community. Instead, it is advisable to use the momentum associated with the OZG for comprehensive digitization and automation in the backend or "engine room" of the administration. After ensuring sufficient support for the respective OZG service areas through standardized specialized procedures, repetitive tasks, for example, can be orchestrated, digitized and automated through automation tools and robotic process automation. The momentum associated with OZG should be used for decisive digitization along these lines.

OZG - more than just the creation of a digital platform for citizens

The OZG has triggered a wave of digitization in German municipalities that has been missing for a long time. Municipalities can successfully meet the major challenge of providing numerous administrative services digitally by 2022 by using nationwide standardized architectures and portal offerings. At the same time, the OZG and the associated creative will among numerous decision-makers in politics and administration should be used for comprehensive digitization and automation in the "engine room" of the administration. Only when the application data captured in the front end meets automated and end-to-end digitized processes in the back end will there be real added value for users. The time is ripe for a sustainable digitization push in German administrations. The implementation of the OZG can be effectively structured in the municipalities along the five steps outlined here. 

The original article appeared on Linkedin on 3.07.2020.

By Felix Dinnessen and Julius Sicken