Paper Jam: At the end of September 2022, the High Committee for Digital Transformation was established. Can you remind us of the role of this body? And why is it important to support national ambitions to digitize society?
Markus Hansen: For the Ministry of Digitization, the High Committee is an essential pillar of the country’s digital governance.
In order to move forward in the digital age in a coordinated manner and in the interest of all citizens, we are convinced that it is essential to understand the challenges of digitization from all possible angles. For this reason, it brings together ministries, members of civil society and employers, but also experts from different backgrounds. We therefore hope for an exchange on the topics of economy, work, education or digital public service etc. This transversal approach will enable greater coherence and coordination of the efforts that need to be made to achieve successful digital administration.
Paper Jam: What ambitions does this government have with regard to the digital transformation of society and the economy? And what are the main achievements that we have to thank for?
Markus Hansen: The main objective of the Ministry of Digitization can be summed up in a few words: to use technology and its advantages for the benefit of citizens and businesses, with the aim of improving everyone’s daily life and launching administrative processes in this sense.
As examples, I would like to mention the development of functionalities and the range of administrative procedures on MyGuichet.lu, the changes to the law on the ID card or the introduction of electronic invoices for companies that work with state or municipal institutions. Let’s also talk about the MyGuichet.lu application, GouvlD or artificial intelligence projects. Or the national action plan for the digital inclusion of all citizens… I could go on and on with the list of achievements that correspond to our priority commitment.
Given all these achievements in their entirety, they are part of an overall vision that makes it possible to advance the digitization of society in the interests of the government. We are on the right path.
The eGovernment Benchmark 20221 e also confirms this and now places us on the third step of the podium among 35 other countries.
Paper Jam: At the height of the summer, while highlighting that third place, you reiterated the government’s commitment to digitization and the need not to “rest on our laurels”. Why is it more important than ever to keep up with the pace?
Markus Hansen: I am fully aware that the work will never be fully completed as technology is constantly evolving. We will therefore always have room for possible progress, but the current good results are a real driver for moving forward. It’s about our daily life. Therefore we cannot rest on our laurels.
Paper Jam: Based on this, what do you see as priority projects for the coming months?
Markus Hansen: Efforts will continue in the coming months to offer public services that are even more responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses. More than 400 such projects are currently running in the State Information Technology Center (CTIE) and in the Goy-Tech Lab, in this sense calls for innovation partnerships are also made. To give just a few examples of projects: a national intelligence service, MyGuichet.lu automated notifications, state-level e-signature, new MyGuichet.lu assistants, etc. We are also developing an identity card and a driving license in digital form, which can be stored in an electronic wallet can be saved. In short, there is no shortage of projects.
Paper Jam: How can the digital transformation of the state and in particular the administration become a lever to improve the competitiveness of Luxembourg companies?
Markus Hansen: The digitization of the state is an essential part of the competitiveness of companies in Luxembourg and we are committed to it.
Our Department is constantly looking for ways to facilitate relations between governments and the private sector. All parties benefit from quick and easy interactions. For this reason, we are particularly careful to expand the range of administrative procedures for companies on MyGuichet.lu.
For example, as part of e-invoicing, we give companies the opportunity to use MyGuichet.lu to create and send their e-invoices.
We also propose that the private sector contact us via zesum-simplify.lu to make proposals on the administrative simplifications needed for its proper functioning. The High Committee for Digital Transformation is also a platform of choice to deepen this exchange with company representatives.
Through our GovTech Lab, we are promoting a new mindset within the state, using the knowledge and skills of the private sector to drive digitization in Luxembourg. These collaborations are of interest to both administrations and companies, both of which can help shape the transition to digital administration and can constantly develop in order to increase their competitiveness and innovativeness.
Paper Jam: Luxembourg invests in emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain. Why are these technologies promising for you? What benefit can Luxembourg derive from positioning itself as a pioneer in blockchain technology (as it seems to want to)? What are the problems in this regard?
Markus Hansen: The digital transformation of society creates an unprecedented production of data. In its strategic vision for AI, the government focuses in particular on the development and deployment of AI-based technological tools or solutions to process these growing amounts of data and use them to create more predictability, improve services or make organizational processes more efficient to design. Within the state, the AI4Gov Committee encourages governments to use AI to develop new methods and improve their services and procedures.
In terms of blockchain technology, the state is using the first public sector blockchain to develop a range of new applications reserved for this sector, as well as applications involving interactions between the public and private sectors. The properties of the blockchain meet the criteria we were looking for: it is a transparent and secure technology for storing and transmitting information, containing the history of all exchanges carried out between its users since its creation.
A concrete embodiment of this public sector blockchain is the digitization of student loans, which I presented in September 2021 with the Minister for Higher Education and Research, Claude Meisch. This is a typical example of how technology can make life easier for citizens, because with this completely digital process, students no longer have to go to a bank to apply for a loan, but can do so electronically, thanks to blockchain technology, be absolutely safe and understandable.
In any case, the goal of using these new technologies always remains the same, namely to provide ever more innovative and safer services to citizens.
Paper Jam: Digital transformation increases our reliance on technology and exposes us to new types of risk, such as B. cyber attacks by cyber criminals or states or even data loss and theft. How does the government take into account the new risk typologies and how are they integrated into the procedures of the administration that manages sensitive data of citizens?
Markus Hansen: Luxembourg’s commitment to cybersecurity is an undeniable fact. The Prime Minister and Minister for Digitization, Xavier Bettel, recently reiterated in his State of the Union speech that he intends to constantly step up these efforts in Luxembourg. At the public service level, many actors have been active in this area for a very long time and we are no exception. The security of government infrastructures, platforms and applications is also a priority of the Ministry of Digitization and the CTIE, the country’s main IT service provider.
We strive every day to provide safe and reliable environments for all interactions of citizens and businesses with public administration or between government agencies. Unfortunately, cyber attacks are part of the digital world, but it is our duty to recognize them as quickly as possible and to react appropriately.
Indeed, it is imperative to ensure the highest level of security when it comes to the data of our citizens and businesses.
Paper Jam: Digital inclusion is also important to you. What are the main problems in this area and what measures have been taken so that everyone can benefit from the technology?
Markus Hansen: The goal of the government is to make digitization an opportunity for everyone and to give those who cannot or do not want to go digital the opportunity not to be excluded. The digital inclusion of all citizens is essential to ensure social cohesion. However, in order to identify and bridge a possible digital divide, it seemed essential to us to have a good understanding of the context in which we find ourselves in order to identify the vulnerable populations and their needs. With this in mind, I called in particular for a consultation debate in the Chamber of Deputies and promoted an opinion poll among the population on their expectations of digitalisation.
The Ministry of Digitization then proposed a National Action Plan on Digital Inclusion, which was adopted by the Government Council in September 2021. Various non-state actors close to populations that may be remote from digital technology. The identified priorities are diverse: facilitating access to digital tools, promoting the development of digital skills, tackling regional disparities in digital offerings, raising awareness of the security and management of online information, and motivating the use of digital content.
The action plan presents 40 concrete initiatives to promote digital inclusion for all. 18 of these initiatives are implemented by the Ministry for Digitization. I would also like to point out that most of these measures have already been launched, including, for example, a training offer on digital skills in cooperation with the non-profit association Erwüsseßildung and the creation of the thematic line portal www.zesummendigital.lu. The latter provides a great deal of information to the people concerned, but also to associations close to vulnerable populations, and can thus find out about all the existing measures that could support them.