Philip Nedelcu, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Digitalization is the aim of many current projects, both in the private and the public sector. This has been further intensified by the enactment of a federal law (OZG) that obliges all governmental agencies to offer their services online until end of 2022. While the law on Länder level (the Law on E-Government in Bavaria) does not contain a similar obligation, the local governments (LGs) are also bound by the OZG. To support this mandatory digitalization on the municipal level, the Land government engages in several projects and initiatives to nudge and support LGs in their digitalization efforts. Hence, the field of digitalization is a very current example for intergovernmental cooperation, while many projects are of course still in their early stages. As the digitalization of public administration requires a sufficient network infrastructure, the obligation to digitalize described below may have beneficial side effects for rural areas that so far lack sufficient infrastructure and a stable network connection. Digitalization can also enable municipalities to respond to problematic realities which is the focus of one of the projects described in this entry.
Digitalization of course presupposes the existence of (broadband) infrastructure. While this aspect is described in the first entry to report section 2 on local responsibilities, this entry will focus on the implementation of digital tools/technology in the municipal sector and how this is an example for intergovernmental cooperation. The intergovernmental cooperation in the field of digitalization of municipal services follows a common approach regarding the division of competences, with the Land government providing financial and technical support while the LGs are tasked with the implementation itself.
The Bavarian Government is implementing several means to incentivize LGs to engage in digitalization. One project is a website named ‘BayernPortal’ that provides information to citizens and also LGs on (digital) governmental services. Furthermore, the state set up a system enabling each Bavarian citizen to create its own account to access governmental services online, the so-called ‘BayernID’. This system is supposed to be taken up by all LGs that implement digital provision of services. Another aspect is the inter-governmental financing of digitalization. Here, two state-administered funding programs are worth mentioning.
The first one is named Digital Town Hall (Digitales Rathaus) and is focused on subsidizing the digital transformation of LGs’ administration. It grants funding (from Länder level) to specific LGs upon application in accordance with a Bavarian funding directive enacted in 2019. The directive pursues a holistic approach, as only concepts containing more than 20 online services in total are eligible for financing. This shows that the directive wants an overarching digitalization instead of only special sectors of governmental services. However, the directive only applies to totally new online services and explicitly excludes the modernization/updating of preexisting services. This is meant to increase the number of digital services offered by municipalities and to implement the requirements of the federal law (OZG) mentioned above. A broadening of existing services could however be eligible for funding. While urban local governments (ULGs) are not in general excluded from financing under the initiative, financing has so far been granted mostly to rural local governments (RLGs) (from North Bavaria, as the funding allocation for South Bavarian LGs has not yet been announced). This might be explained by the fact that most ULGs already have digital systems in place, which makes them ineligible for funding.
The second project is called Digital Village Bavaria (Digitales Dorf Bayern) and picks specific pilot projects in RLGs that are meant to deal with upcoming challenges by employing the benefits of digitalization. In a first step, several regions (comprising several municipal LGs) where selected in a state-wide competition, the selection being based on concepts that were submitted by regions. The regional LGs were asked to identify challenges they are facing due to demographic change (e.g. public transport services becoming unprofitable, lack of qualified workforce, discontinuation of healthcare services, etc.) and to come up with digital concepts that are meant to help them tackle these challenges. Currently, there are five so-called pilot regions working in the project framework, each of them lying in a peripheral area of Bavaria. These regions receive (mostly financial) support in the development and implementation of their concept. Furthermore, each region will be marketed as an innovative region by the project and on its website.
While the Bavarian initiatives and accompanying statements by politicians and LGs show that the Länder government is focused on achieving e-government, there are some points that warrant attention. Most of the current programs focus mainly on RLGs. While ULGs might have more budgetary leeway to fund digitalization efforts by themselves, this could also be an indicator for a lagging implementation in RLGs (in comparison with ULGs). Especially the Digital Town Hall program is tailored towards these issues, as it only covers first-time digitalization. In this regard, the efforts seem to be driven mainly by the requirements of the federal legislation described above. Another factor for primarily funding RLGs is the need to tackle demographic changes, as a well-implemented digitalization could make rural areas more attractive for companies and/or younger inhabitants. This is explicitly addressed within the Digital Village project.
One could argue that these considerations exclude ‘experienced’ ULGs that would be able to test innovative projects more efficiently. While this does indeed not seem to be the main priority of the existing funding programs examined in this entry, it also becomes clear that the different circumstances in ULGs and RLGs render a ‘one fits all’-approach not feasible. To the contrary, funding programs that are able to take into account the individual circumstances will produce more fitting results. Changing circumstances in different regions as well as the rapid technological development in the field of digitalization also show that a continuous evaluation and adaption of existing programs is necessary.
Looking at the programs from the perspective of inter-governmental cooperation, the biggest disadvantage lies in the lack of a deeper cooperation between the different layers of government. Instead of setting up one or several centralized project(s) to engage in the (technical) development itself, it seems that the government (through centralized projects) merely funds initiatives on the LG level. While this enables the LGs to actually tailor the specific projects to their needs, it might lead to plenty of parallel research and development on similar projects. A centralized agency that engages in development itself or provides general tools/services for LGs could be more efficient and should be broadened in scope beyond the ‘framework software’ described above. The lack of central development is also one of the aspects criticized by governmental authorities when surveyed on the implementation of e-government. At the same time, it should not be overlooked that the Bavarian digital villages project is supposed to develop and test programs that could be feasible for other LGs too, using the pilot regions as a kind of testing labs. Additionally, the federal and the Länder governments created the federal information management system (FIM) to establish a platform where developed digital solutions can be made accessible to other governments/agencies.
Richtlinie zur Förderung der Bereitstellung von Online-Diensten im kommunalen Bereich (Förderrichtlinie digitales Rathaus – FöRdR), BayMbl. 2019 no 290, 7 August 2019 <https://www.verkuendung-bayern.de/files/baymbl/2019/290/baymbl-2019-290.pdf>
Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:
Heuermann R, Tomenendal M and Bressem C (eds), Digitalisierung in Bund, Ländern und Gemeinden: IT-Organisation, Management und Empfehlungen (Springer Gabler 2018)
Research Services of the German Bundestag, ‘Sachstand – E-Government in Deutschland Aktueller Stand auf Bundes- und Landesebene’ (file no WD 3 – 3000 – 134/19, 2019) <https://www.bundestag.de/resource/blob/655082/32a17c3834d5c5c5d6f5a7232f0491c0/WD-3-134-19-pdf-data.pdf>
 Onlinezugangsgesetz (OZG) enacted (jointly with other laws) on 14 August 2017 (BGBl. I S. 3122).
 Sec 1(1) OZG. The implementation of this obligation takes place in close cooperation between the federal and the Länder governments, as the law requires the creation of a joint online portal (Portalverbund) in Sec 1(2). The federal and the Länder governments established an organisation to oversee this cooperation, the federal IT-cooperation (FITKO), for further information see ‘Das Onlinezugangsgesetz (OZG)’ (FITKO) <https://www.fitko.de/Start#StartFIM> accessed 25 June 2020. A detailed overview on the cooperative projects is given here: ‘Digitalisierungsprogramme’ (Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community) <https://www.onlinezugangsgesetz.de/Webs/OZG/DE/umsetzung/digitalisierungsprogramme/digitalisierungsprogramme-node.html> accessed 25 June 2020.
 Gesetz über die elektronische Verwaltung in Bayern [Law on the Electronic Administration in Bavaria] (Bayerisches E-Government-Gesetz – BayEGovG), enacted 22 December 2015. Most other states as well as the federal legislature have enacted similar laws, see, for a list of the state laws from mid-2019, ‘Sachstand – E-Government in Deutschland Aktueller Stand auf Bundes- und Landesebene’ (File no WD 3 – 3000 – 134/19, Research Services of the German Bundestag 2019) 9f (hereinafter: WD Report) <https://www.bundestag.de/resource/blob/655082/32a17c3834d5c5c5d6f5a7232f0491c0/WD-3-134-19-pdf-data.pdf>.
 It obliges LGs to offer citizens a way to communicate with them electronically (Art 3), but only encourages the actual provision of electronic/online services (Art 4).
 See, e.g., Sec 4(1)(1) of the funding directive for the project Digital town hall (see infra for further detail) that makes funding conditional upon the compatibility of digital projects with the BayernID-system.
 Richtlinie zur Förderung der Bereitstellung von Online-Diensten im kommunalen Bereich [Regulation on the Promotion of the Provision of Online-Services in the Municipal Field](Förderrichtlinie digitales Rathaus – FöRdR), BayMbl. 2019 no 290, 7 August 2019.
 Sec 4(1)(4).
 Secs 2; 4(1)(4); 4(2).
 Sec 1.
 Sec 4(1)(4).
 See for a list of the beneficiaries: ‘Füracker und Gerlach: E-Government im Kommunalbereich ausbauen’ (Digitales Rathaus Bayern) <https://www.digitales-rathaus.bayern/aktuelles/news/artikel9.html> accessed 25 June 2020.
 See <https://digitales-dorf.bayern>. A similar project called digital villages (Digitale Dörfer) was set up in Rhineland Palatine and now caters to RLGs all over Germany. For further information and a list of the participating LGs see <https://www.digitale-doerfer.de/> both accessed 25 June 2020.
 The smallest region selected is made up of two municipalities, the biggest of 16.
 For a list of identified challenges, see ‘Herausforderungen’ (Digitales Dorf. Bayern Digital.) <https://digitales-dorf.bayern/index.php/dd-herausforderungen/> accessed 25 June 2020.
 See for a list of regions and the respective projects pursued: ‘Übersicht der Pilotregionen’ (Digitales Dorf. Bayern Digital.) <https://digitales-dorf.bayern/index.php/die-modelldoerfer/> accessed 25 June 2020.
 The benefits enjoyed by the pilot regions are listed here: ‘Leistungsumfang’ (Digitales Dorf. Bayern Digital.) <https://digitales-dorf.bayern/index.php/dd-herausforderungen/leistungsumfang/> accessed 25 June 2020.
 This idea is also ushered by the following report on a digital village in Rhineland-Palatine: ‘Leben auf dem Land. Ein Dorf wird digital’ (Die Bundesregierung, 9 August 2019) <https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/digitalisierung/digitales-dorf-1604066> accessed 25 June 2020.
 WD Report 14.97% of the agencies obliged to implement e-government services stated they are facing challenges in their implementation. Besides the lack of centrally developed IT solutions, the other substantial difficulties in the implementation referred to by governmental agencies/bodies are: lack of funding; data protection rules; lack of acceptance by users and lack of relevant competences within the agencies.
 A similar project (Smarte Landregionen) focusing on rural regions is also pursued by the federal government. The application phase for regions began in December 2019. For further information see ‘Smarte Landregionen’ (BMEL.de) https://www.bmel.de/DE/Laendliche-Raeume/Digitales/SmarteLandregionen/_texte/MuD_Smarte_LandRegionen.html accessed 25 June 2020.