Comment: The OZG 2.0 lacks a clear strategy and a powerful technical basis

Dealing with public authorities at the click of a mouse – the implementation of the Online Access Act (OZG) should make this easier. However, the digital transformation of public administration has not just stalled since the OZG expired. Despite initial successes, the level of digitalization of administrative services is still lagging behind the public’s expectations. With the “OZG Amendment Act“, which was recently passed by the Bundestag, we are lagging behind from a sporting point of view – and already in injury time. Press representatives and associations are not the only ones to criticize the OZG 2.0 as being too non-binding and unambitious. So what do we need to do to get the Online Access Act safely over the line by the end of 2028? Above all, we need a radical rethink at state level, a review of the tasks involved in providing services for the municipal level and a technical basis as a foundation.

Let’s not kid ourselves: The OZG has failed. Not even a third of the targeted 575 administrative services have been digitized by the end of 2022. And the OZG Amendment Act also leaves a lot to be desired in its current form. On the contrary, it is not only non-binding, but also unambitious. It lacks a view of the big picture, a vision of modern administrative digitization and a consistent, sustainable implementation strategy – combined with a technical infrastructure that can be used across all federal levels. Up to now, the federal, state and local authorities have been lost in countless individual solutions that cause more confusion than solve problems. The implementation of the OZG is currently more like a large theater stage: on the outside you can see the beautiful facade, but behind the scenes there are loose ends that lead nowhere or are provisionally held together. In most cases, there are no connections to specialist procedures or interfaces to other applications.

The success of digital administration will be decided in the municipalities, which are responsible for the majority of administrative services for citizens and companies. There is not only a lack of financial resources here, but also a lack of specialist staff at a technical and organizational level. We therefore need a radical review of tasks and reforms that address the question of which level of government provides which specific services. This is the only way to relieve municipal administrations of standard administrative tasks and counteract the enormous staff shortage. Instead of digitizing selected administrative services individually, uniform standards and common basic components are needed across all federal levels. In order to remain capable of acting in the long term, a transformation process is required in the administration, which must be controlled by the state level. Local authorities must be given targeted support with digitalization – with strategies, structures and ready-made IT solutions. Otherwise, we will not be able to digitize all services by the end of 2028.

In the end, we have to ask ourselves the question: Are we prepared to work together across all national borders – such as with the introduction of the Deutschland Ticket? Because only when everyone is working on a common vision can the digitization of administration be driven forward sustainably. And if this requires a change in the law to put the vision on a legal footing, then politicians should also give it serious consideration.