End of the Ministry of Digital Affairs in Poland

When the Internet rumbled last week with the first decisions to restructure 20 ministries in Poland to just 14, it became certain that the Ministry of Digital Affairs would not emerge victorious from this change. On October 6, 2020, during the swearing-in of the new Council of Ministers, the news became final. The ministry itself will soon disappear from the map of Polish government structures.

The First Partition of Digitized Poland

This headline may seem too "strong". However, it seems quite accurate for us. Tuesday's appointments will not make the subject of digitization in Poland completely die, nor will any project initiated in the last 5 years be closed. The CRBR and ePUAP register will not disappear. Probably (hopefully!) The November first international conference of the Ministry of Digital Affairs Future is data where our CEO, Arek Hajduk, is to perform will also be held.

It is certain, however, that the Ministry of Digital Affairs as such will cease to exist and its tasks will be transferred to other ministries. It is already known that many of them will go to the "Informatization" department subordinate to the Chancellery of the Prime Minister. According to statements for money.pl, Prime Minister Morawiecki sees a place for Marek Zagórski, who has been the Minister of Digitization since April 2018. Or for other resort employees? This is not known. It seems that some tasks and people may also be absorbed by the newly established Ministry of Development, Labor and Technology and/or the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Administration. It is also possible that some of the employees will go to COAR (Government Administration Service Center).

So what does the liquidation of the Ministry of Digital Affairs mean in practice?

Our comment

We will not be the only ones to be pessimistic: nothing good. It is a pity for the pace of development of digital administration.

We have real premises for this, the most important of which is that the ministry is the ministry and people on certain stools, people on certain stools, but the rank of an independent ministry = greater power to pierce the stiff walls of procedures and administration + the possibility of unifying and making digital matters more consistent on many levels and in various offices.

It cannot be said that in the last 5 years of its existence, the Ministry of Digital Affairs has not had any mishaps, but such a systemic, general approach to the digitization of Poland could never be denied. And we say it knowing the resort from "inside". Due to our experience in business activities involving the provision of data from public registers and the mission of popularizing open data, we have cooperated with the Ministry more than once or twice (e.g. we supported the hackathon #OtwarteDane 2019 as a juror, our CEO belongs to the Open Data Working Party at the Ministry of Digital Affairs from 2018).

What did the Ministry of Digital Affairs do?

Review of key projects for 2015-2020

First, under the leadership of Anna Streżyńska (Minister of Digitization in 2015–2018), and later Marek Zagórski, it supported various other ministries, forced data opening policies, digitized subsequent databases, created various portals and tried to modernize the existing, governmental legacy systems.

Since it was separated as an independent entity in 2015 from the Ministry of Administration and Digitization, digitization in our country has really started to gain momentum. Earlier, although digitization itself took on a ministerial rank a few years earlier, exactly - in 2011, in practice something good in e-administration was beginning to happen, but in the then MAiC administration was in the lead rather than digitization.

It's easy to forget about it, but just a few years ago in Poland there was no:

  • almost no e-administration - you always had to go to the office physically, practically no document or application was digitized. Currently, a sole proprietorship in CEIDG can be set up online, you can submit an entry to CRBR online, we can settle many tax matters online, to name a few important areas for business and citizens. It is also worth mentioning the constantly developed Portal RP gov.pl, which is a coherent information system for the entire public administration, as well as an interesting project Digital Administration Sandbox (CPA), the product of which is a platform for creating and testing new administration API services,
  • so many open data - today we can easily get to know the statistics of the Central Statistical Office or look at the e-financial report of a given company in the e-KRS. There is the Open data portal dane.gov.pl, where databases of over 100 institutions were made available in one place. When it comes to the maturity of open data, Poland is now in a good 7th place in the entire European Union - it has not become a "coincidence". MC is responsible for increasing the re-use of public data in Poland - it did it through the successive implementation of new tools and the development of standards and regulations, training of officials, etc. multi-element process)
  • the profile was trusted (since 2011), but hardly anyone used it - only 400,000 were using it until 2016. people, currently it is 5 million, of which over 2 million set up accounts only in 2019. This increase is also due to the Ministry of Digitization - it has established cooperation with banks, so that the profile can be set up through electronic banking (which eliminated the troublesome need to verify the account through a physical visit to the office). What's more, MC began to engage in the popularization of dealing with official matters via the Internet and the increase in digital competences of the society - educational and information campaigns for the dissemination of the benefits of using digital technologies, which MC implemented together with NASK from 2017 began to gradually bear fruit. There is still a lot to do there, especially to support digital competences in older people, but eventually some coherent strategy of informing and encouraging citizens to use digital solutions has been developed
  • there were no e-prescriptions or medical e-referrals - this is a perfect example of cooperation between the Ministry of Digitization and another ministry (in this case, the Ministry of Health), although the list is longer. Take, for example, the portal with online lessons gov.pl/zdalnelelki, which was created in recent months of the COVID-19 epidemic thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry with the Ministry of National Education and NASK
  • such a fast Internet - of course, the entrepreneurs themselves played the most important role in this, but the ministry supported them both regulatively (by creating investment regulations) and supervisingly (the Operational Program Digital Poland, under which EU and national funds are allocated to the expansion of the network).

Of course, there were also mistakes (e.g. e-identity, CEPIK, public procurement platform or a frequency auction necessary for the implementation of the 5G mobile network in Poland, registers falling on the day when entrepreneurs have the last day to submit the documents), but let's be honest - which department didn't have them?

Anyone who is at least a little bit into the subject of open data and digital progress that has been made in Poland in recent years knows perfectly well that coordinating digital matters at many levels and offices, so that they are consistent, may not be so effective when will be scattered among various departments.

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