OZG (Onlinezugangsgesetz) is the latest example of a European-based law that aims to improve the quality of public services for citizens.
The German Online Access Act is yet to be fully implemented, but the implications are far-reaching. European countries often set the trends and standards with their legislation: will there be a spillover effect, and will other countries follow the German lead?
This remains to be seen in the following years. For now, OZG is expecting a full rollout throughout Germany. What are the challenges and opportunities can government agencies expect on their way to implementing this law?
What is OZG?
OZG or Onlinezugangsgesetz (Online Access Act) is a German law that obligates public service providers in Germany to offer most of their services digitally. This includes public administration on the federal level, as well as the local.
The main goal of OZG is to provide single-point access to all state-related services within a unified portal. In other words, citizens should be able to access the most important public services online in one place.
The implications of Onlinezugangsgesetz
With the implementation of the law by the end of 2022, German citizens are able to access the services from the following area online:
- Healthcare: people will be able to sign up for checkups, extend their health documents, and the severely handicapped will more easily access special services.
- Family services: adoption, marriage, name changes, family support, and birth are some examples of important life events that are accompanied by state or local administrative services. With OZG, people will be able to take care of them online.
- Work and retirement: social security issues, paid time off during law-mandated periods like pregnancy, processing retirement forms, and more will be available online.
- Taxes: around 30 services regarding taxes and customs will be made online through Online Zugangsgesetz, like requesting tax deductions, submitting tax forms, and more.
- Judicial services: a wide range of services like reporting lost items and requesting reparations after natural disasters will be available online with OZG.
- Mobility: Germans will more easily extend driver's licenses and perform other related tasks related to mobility and transportation.
- Immigration and emigration services: visas, residence permits, and more will be accessible online.
- Construction and housing: building permits, monument protection, and more services will be available online to citizens.
Benefits of Onlinezugangsgesetz
The benefits of the Online Access Act are obvious and numerous. There are advantages for citizens, administrative workers, and governmental institutions as a whole. The biggest benefit is improved efficiency of the whole system which in turn produces additional benefits.
1. Improving trust in government institutions
The guiding motive in providing improved online access to public services in Germany is user-friendliness. German documents explicitly state that “the Online Access Act makes public administration more accessible” by offering “user-friendly digital forms and documents that make it easier to find and apply for government services and benefits”.
Per Deutsche Welle's research from 2022, Germans are polarized when it comes to trust in institutions of the federal government and federal parliament.
Improving the quality of public services helps to maintain the trust between citizens and their government. By continuously upgrading their services, public offices are showcasing responsibility and keeping up with the current citizens' needs.
2. Resolving issues faster
Due to handling everything online and due to being automated, citizens can expect faster issue resolution. This means that people don’t have to waste time on bureaucracy or, for example, going to a physical location to submit a form for extending their driver's license.
This also gives space to public administrations on state and local levels to re-orientate some of their workforces that used to handle the processual side of things.
3. Easier access to public services for citizens
Citizens living in remote areas or citizens with tight work schedules can more easily access public services. With the enactment of the Online Access Act, elder citizens and citizens with disabilities can reach the services they need from the comfort of their homes.
This is in line with the Web Accessibility directive issued by the EU, which obliged EU member states to ensure their public sector websites and mobile apps are accessible to people with disabilities.
4. Relieving administrative workers from processual duties
Processing forms and requests is a repetitive, but necessary and important task. However, OZG will decrease the need for such work throughout Germany. This will leave more time for administrative workers to focus on providing advice and services.
Challenges and opportunities with OZG implementation
Germany’s Online Access Act is a great step forward to digital transformation. However, every change has its challenges.
The change towards fully digital services can be difficult for citizens used to live services, or for those who aren’t as digitally savvy.
To complement the digital services outlined in the Online Access Act, government agencies should offer support in using them.
What this could mean is providing a channel to communicate with citizens and help them resolve their issues. For example, an embedded in-app chat attached to the portal of public services could be a good solution.
Such a chat should uphold the highest security criteria: as we know, Germany has a very strict outlook on data privacy and protection. Just last year, Microsoft 365 was banned from use in public schools due to lacking GDPR compliance.
Providing in-app support to citizens requesting public services would signify coming full circle and offering complete digital service to citizens. However, government agencies and federal bodies can go beyond and offer omnichannel citizen support — giving the opportunity to citizens to get in touch with public administrations via familiar channels such as WhatsApp, email, SMS, and others.
Rocket.Chat: supporting citizens and governments in digital collaboration
Rocket.Chat is a communication solution supporting use cases in highly-regulated industries such as the government and the public sector. With experience operating in the EU, Rocket.Chat is recognized as the go-to solution for sovereign collaboration for government organizations: you can learn more about it here.
With superior data privacy features such as on-premise deployment, German public sector institutions can stay in control of their data and be compliant with GDPR.
In the context of OZG, Rocket.Chat can extend the functionality of the portal of public services with the chat solution embedded in the portal. As an open source solution, Rocket.Chat’s technology is especially suitable for complex government infrastructure due to its flexibility.
➡️Learn why open source solutions are especially beneficial for public sector organizations, and how is the European Commission advising on using open source software through the Open Source Strategy. Rocket.Chat can also be white-labeled to fit German institutions’ branding and provide a seamless user experience to citizens.
Last but not least, Rocket.Chat can support administrative workers across government organizations to collaborate with each other digitally. Due to Matrix protocol, Rocket.Chat can be used for quick collaboration with colleagues in partner organizations that might be using another communication tool.
With advanced cybersecurity features designed for government use cases, Rocket.Chat can help German institutions extend the digital functionality of Onlinezugangsgesetz (OZG) and facilitate an easier transition to digital services for citizens.
Get in touch with our team to learn how Rocket.Chat can allow you to support citizens on their favorite channels and collaborate seamlessly with colleagues in partner government agencies.
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