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The Warsaw Voice » Other » August 13, 2008
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IT is It
August 13, 2008   
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Information technology will in the near future play a key role in the Polish economy and to a large extent determine how competitive the country is internationally, experts say. An organization known as the Polish Platform for Information Technology (PPTI) aims to help the government increase the use of IT technology in public administration.

According to the European Commission, a "second IT revolution" will take place in Europe in 2010-2015. This process is expected to be based on a rapid development of media and services such as fourth-generation mobile telephony, digital terrestrial television and radio (DTTV/DTR), broadband internet access, and Internet Protocol television (IPTV).

Meanwhile, Poland continues to lag behind other countries in the European Union in terms of internet access. For example, the country is far behind Estonia, where more than 85 percent of the population has internet access, and it is also behind Germany, where six in 10 people have access to be web. In Poland, only 37 percent of households had internet access last year.

In terms of the percentage of households with a computer, Poland, with 43 percent, is closer to the "new EU" average of 47 percent.

Broadband is available to nearly 50 percent of the Polish households with internet access. The average for the new EU member states is only slightly higher, at 55 percent, mainly because of Estonia and the Czech Republic, where internet access is more widespread than in other countries.

In terms of the use of IT in public administration, Poland trails most other EU countries. This indicator, which testifies to a country's development level, is dramatically low in Poland. Countries with a high level of IT use in public administration are capable of attracting more investors, experts say.

In the enlarged EU as a whole, 43 percent of public business is done interactively online. The figure was even higher before Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU Jan. 1 last year. Poland, with merely 9 percent, is third from bottom in the EU in this area. The Polish indicator has not changed much since 2004, according to the European statistical office, Eurostat.

Online public services are addressed to businesses rather than individuals. They include social insurance reports and declarations, customs settlements and value-added tax returns.

Under "The Strategy for the Development of Information Technology in Poland by 2013," a document drafted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, 99.4 percent of Poland's district-level authorities had access to the internet in 2005. Of this, 80 percent used a modem connection. Today, nearly all district-level authorities in the country have internet access, but 70 percent of them still rely on a modem connection.

Experts say online transaction services are still underdeveloped in Poland, which calls for devising new procedures, integrating state-run registers and databases, amending laws, and drafting new corporate regulations and standards.

For the time being, efforts to speed up the development of IT in Poland's public administration have failed to produce the expected results, as illustrated by the government's late-2007 decision to discontinue work on a Universal Electronic Population Registration System referred to as PESEL 2.

Platform for action
The Polish Platform for Information Technology (PPTI), established in 2006, aims to spread the use of IT in public administration, integrate IT applications, build databases, ensure data security and make information technology more user-friendly and easily available.

The organization's chairman Konrad Makomaski once headed Marketplanet.pl, a virtual marketplace for companies.

The PPTI, supported by the Polish Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications, regularly participates in European research programs, chiefly those carried out as part of the EU's 7th Framework Program. The organization works actively with the NESSI and NEM European technology platforms.

The PPTI has worked out detailed recommendations for individuals responsible for the development and use of IT in both business and administration.

Software and hardware integration is an especially important issue, PPTI experts say. In view of the multitude of products and services on the market, it is necessary to ensure an adequate level of compatibility between them. The user does not need to know the detailed technical aspects of individual devices or learn skills necessary for their configuration and operation. These devices should be user-friendly and modular in structure so that they are easy to operate and maintain. They should also be compatible with other equipment.

It is also necessary to focus on the free flow of information through all communications channels, the PPTI says. Separating important things from unimportant and eliminating "information noise" will make it possible to build useful databases to the benefit of both individual users and businesses, the organization says.

The PPTI strives to ensure the security of important data, databases and software in order to prevent attempts by various individuals or groups to gain unauthorized access to information. It is also necessary to protect data from damage and prevent the dissemination of false information, either deliberate or unintentional, the organization says.

Putting all these ideas into practice requires new methods for the application of IT systems, often by building them from scratch with the use of new technology, PPTI experts say. The organization's recommendations apply to both public administration and local government agencies.

One of the obstacles to a wider use of IT in Poland's public administration system is the continued lack of electronic signatures in both central and local administration. The e-signature law passed by the Polish parliament on Sept. 18, 2001 has never taken effect in practice. Central and local authorities have never introduced electronic signatures for use on official documents. Due to technical difficulties, the deadline for public administration to introduce e-signatures has been postponed four times. Moreover, due to mistakes in the law, e-signatures can come in many different formats, most of them incompatible with one another, while software used by Poland's central and local authorities usually accepts only one specific format imposed by the software provider.

All this means that the next few years will be a busy time for PPTI experts and market analysts associated with the organization as they work to spread the use of IT in public administration.

Marek Mejssner

The Polish Platform for Information Technology comprises the following companies and institutions:

  1. ATM SA
  2. Bonair SA
  3. Computerland SA
  4. Consortia Sp. z o.o.
  5. Ericpol Telecom Sp. z o.o.
  6. Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa Sp. z o.o.
  7. Prokom Software SA
  8. Rodan Systems SA
  9. Systemy Komputerowe Główka S.A.
  10. Institute of Fundamental Technological Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)
  11. Research and Academic Computer Network (NASK)
  12. Polish Chamber of Information Technology
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