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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 20, 2008
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Towards an Information Society
February 20, 2008   
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Poland has long flirted with the idea of computerizing public administration by using information and telecommunications technologies to make public bodies function more efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, flirting is about as far as it's gone despite all the projects that have been drawn up, the conferences and presentations that have been held, and the EU largesse that has been coming in. But thankfully all is not lost. SIRMA (Network for Innovative Mazovian eDevelopment) is one project that can point to the scoreboard.

The Polish public has already had some exposure electronic administration through ePUAP (Electronic Platform for Public Administration Service) and PESEL-2 (National ID Number 2) projects. ePUAP is a work in progress designed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration (MSWiA) to simplify access to on line services by providing a single access point, known as an e-platform, through which public institutions can offer their e-services via a single website.

PESEL-2, another MSWiA project, is designed to verify personal data for the purpose of providing national, regional and local public services. PESEL is the cornerstone of electronic administration in Poland. This project has almost nothing to show so far for its three years of operation and zl.140 million allocation. This performance is usually put down to a lack of professional approach, reluctance to outsource to reputable IT firms, bureaucratic inertia and an unstoppable onslaught of central government red tape.

Local government initiatives like SIRMA may be the way forward. SIRMA was launched back in 2006 by Cities on the Internet (COI), a group of public and private bodies set up in 1997 to automate the provision of public services. SIRMA has been designed to assist public and private bodies and individuals in Mazovia interested in e-development. SIRMA involves training, workshops, consulting and foreign study tours. SIRMA has furnished its members with the know how they need to develop and implement effective IT and telecommunications projects and apply for EU funding.

"We are embarking on a journey that will take us to the online provision of public services to the residents of Mazovia," says Krzysztof Głomb, chairman of Cities on the Internet. "The project hinges on well-prepared local government staff. We also need to convince the residents of Mazovia that e-services have tangible benefits and that e-communication with offices and other public institutions such as medical clinics and hospitals saves time and money."

During the many hours of SIRMA lectures, people from all levels of public and private organizations have been shown how to apply for EU funding for 2007-2013 projects and how to combat digital exclusion. They have also been shown models of online public service provision and have become acquainted with e-health solutions that can make health services more efficient. SIRMA has arranged four study tours to Finland, Spain, Italy and Britain.

SIRMA has led to the establishment of the Mazovian Association of Communities for the Development of an Information Society. Members include the 27 Mazovia province districts whose representatives have been highly active in SIRMA. These communities are aiming to launch an IT project called the System of Electronic Support for the Districts and Counties of Mazovia Province sometime soon. SIRMA has also launched www.sirma.pl, Poland's first database on the information society at the regional level.

Agnieszka Domańska
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