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OECD recommends improving the agility of government

27. February 2015 - 11:30

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented a joint report on public governance and the development of cross-border digital government in Estonia and Finland, recommending that the government's flexibility in its use of resources be improved and the implementation of pilot projects in cross-border services   online  be commenced.

The OECD recommends striving for a more focused government activity, concentrating on three to five strategic goals and extending the rights of the government in the use of organisational, financial and human resources in order to better direct these to the achievement of government priorities.

“Delivering results to citizens starts with governments´ ability to effectively craft and implement a vision-based strategy for the country. This requires strong leadership and an effective whole-of-government co-ordination, supported by strategic foresight,” said OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi. “The government has to engage through a whole of cabinet approach towards ensuring that all ministries are working toward shared priorities. These need to be clearly defined, time-bound and easily understood.”

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said  since the  formation of the current administration one year ago that the government needs more flexibility. “After completing the first steps in improving the flexibility and rearranging the areas of responsibility between the ministers in accordance with the priorities of the government, I am convinced that such flexibility needs to be further extended,” Rõivas added.

The report also recommends creating joint program funds to improve the capacity to achieve broad government strategic priorities and to carry out audits on the budget, in order to identify lower priorities or inefficient use of funds in order to redirect the resources to priority areas.

According to the report, the main problem with public governance in both Estonia and Finland lies in the  fragmentation of government and its administration – with regard to goals, organisations and the use of resources. Both countries must strive to bring down silos in departmental barriers. The OECD recommends that the circumstances hindering horizontal co-operation must first be identified, after which an action plan for the elimination of these institutional barriers can be developed. The report highlights the competence development system of top Estonian civil servants as a positive example of teambuilding. In addition, the system for processing EU matters is singled out as a good example of inter-ministerial co-ordination.

The report recommends evaluating the work results of top civil servants not only on the basis of the attainment of the priorities of the ministry but also according to the achievement of the government’s overall priorities. In order to reinforce the impact assessment system the report proposes forming an expert panel to evaluate the quality of impact assessment on major draft legislation. Furthermore, to improve the capacity for medium and long term horizon scanning the OECD recommends establishing a competency for foresight activities at the Government Office which can take inspiration from Finland.

In the OECD’s assessment, the preparedness for cross-border digital government services is very high in Estonia, as both the legal and technological frameworks are in place. For the purpose of ICT co-operation with Finland, the report proposes a roadmap for the advancement of cross-border online public services,  including specific pilot projects (e.g. those related to taxes, social security, commercial registers and e-health), the procedure for their implementation and keeping a record of the work done and lessons learned during the joint projects, in order to take the results of the co-operation to scale up good examples and to set an inspiring example for other  EU level countries.

According to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Estonia – with the help of the report – hopes to serve as an example and encouragement to the European Union, together with Finland, in the movement towards a common digital market and the development of cross-border digital public services.

The joint analysis “Fostering Strategic Capacity Across Governments and Digital Services Across Borders” is the first of its kind in OECD history and as such is unique as a joint review of two countries. It is also the first OECD report in the field of digital government applying the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies to assess policies and governance and to guide on cross-border services development. Joint discussions and the experience of other OECD member states were used in the preparation of  the report for the assessment of the situation in Estonia and Finland. To date, e-government has mostly been viewed from a domestic perspective. In Estonia, the compilation of the report was organised by the Strategy Unit of the Government Office.

The report follows on earlier OECD analyses on Finland (2010) and Estonia (2011). These revealed that both countries have their unique strengths and weaknesses despite an otherwise relatively similar institutional organisation of the state. Estonia can benefit from Finland’s experience in the overall functioning of government and its foresight capacity, while Finland can learn from our experience in the development of digital government services and the corresponding infrastructure. In addition, the ICT field is a priority area for both countries due to the potential for mutual cross-border online public services that would benefit the citizens and undertakings of both countries. Shared cross-border online services could also serve as an example in the advancement of a broader digital infrastructure at European level. The prime ministers of both countries expressed their willingness for co-operation in the field of public governance during their meeting in the summer of 2013.

The report is available at


Further information: Margus Sarapuu, Director of Strategy of the Government Office, +372 693 5623, margus.sarapuu[at]riigikantselei[dot]ee