Digital by Default – The EU’s fully electronic public sector

by Gaurav Sharma (guest) on 26. January 2018

The European Commission has been hard at work pushing out policies and guidelines to address the few remaining issues in its move towards a truly unified and digital Single Market.

A key constituent of that market is the public sector which directly contributes over €3.5 trillion to the economy, in addition to its social and regulatory impact. It should come as no surprise then that the operational harmonization of the various public sector agencies and organizations spread across the various member states is considered instrumental in achieving the goals of the Single Market.

This harmonization of the public sector is based on a few key principles and digital enablers. Here is a brief look at a few of the main ones.

eInvoicing is not something that is entirely new to businesses in the EU. Companies have already been using it to greatly improve their working capital cycles while also saving on the costs associated with manually handling non-electronic invoices. However, the challenge with the current system is the inconsistency caused by a wide diversity in formats as well as national rules related to eInvoicing. The European Committee for Standardization hopes to remove all these barriers and speed up the invoicing process for consumers, businesses and the public sector service providers.


eDelivery is another key component of the European Union’s digital strategy. It uses a distributed network of nodes for secure and fast communication between public administrators, businesses and citizens. eDelivery provides the technical specifications that will eventually enable seamless, cross-border and inter-agency sharing of data and information in public fields such as law enforcement, consumer protection, procurement and so on.


eProcurement is more than just having an online portal for public sector procurement tenders. The intent is to modify the whole process by making it easier, faster, more transparent and cost effective. Public sector purchasing bodies are to move to a fully electronic means for posting and awarding tenders and electronic submission of tenders would also become mandatory by 2018. This would further enhance cross-border and inter-organizational interoperability.


New Call-to-actioneIDAS provides identification, authentication and trust services for all sorts of transactions performed on the digital landscape. Although electronic identification has been in use before, eIDAS provides for a system that is harmonized for use across all the member states of the EU while ensuring the highest security standards. It is a key enabler for most of the other policy initiatives as it provides the basis for the transaction level security that is critical for these applications. 

European Interoperability Framework

The European Interoperability Framework lays the groundwork for interoperability between organizations and entities offering public series across the EU. It makes full use of other guidelines like eIDAS or the Public Sector Information Directive to ensure seamless delivery of public services to all EU citizens.

Towards a Better Public Service Delivery System

These policies (and others) together form the core foundation on which a more efficient, transparent and secure public service delivery system will stand. However, rather than reinventing the wheel, these guidelines take the existing best practices and harmonize them to the greatest extent possible so as to ensure cross-border compatibility. The policymakers hope that the public sector can perhaps lead the way in demonstrating the strength and robustness of the underlying core principles of the Single Market.

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References and Further Reading

Image: odd one out, courtesy of randonfox, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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