GovTech Spotlight: Poland

In February 2017, the Polish Council of Ministers adopted a more robust national plan for the delivery of digital services to citizens: the Strategy for Regional Development (SRD). Since then, this initiative has aimed to consolidate and encourage more balanced growth throughout the country.

There has been a two-pronged approach to this: the shorter-term plan, which ended in 2020, and a longer-term plan, which is scheduled to last until 2030. Its adoption covers much of Poland’s basic physical and digital infrastructure, designed to take full advantage of collaboration between various agencies, and ensure that they can move together into the 2020s.

At the time of the SRD’s adoption, Polish officials released a document outlining various shortcomings, and why strategies needed to change.

“Over the last 25 years, Poland has pursued a model of development that only certain groups of the society could benefit from,” they said at the time. 

“Under the former state policy, inadequate emphasis was put on anticipative measures, giving directions to development in different spheres of the social and economic life so that it is possible to prevent the occurrence of any adverse phenomena well in advance.”

“Ad hoc decisions were often made with delay, in an inconsistent and uncoordinated way. As a result, actions did not bring any effects in terms of the performance of the objectives specified in the strategies.”

In other words, it was deemed necessary to modernise the Polish public services architecture as much as possible. This mattered on multiple levels: in an economic sense – since the country is eager to further establish itself as a modern, Euro-centric jurisdiction for business; in a social sense – to improve the national quality of life; and in a tech sense – highlighting the importance of digitalisation to improved public services and competitiveness.

The SRD strategy therefore rethinks a range of public service categories, while recognising the need to involve rural areas and cities in the process. Also, it includes disadvantaged regions to help mitigate the many disparities in development.

Putting it in a historical context, the SRD came on the back of a vast reorganisation of Polish governance in the decade following the regaining of independence.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the decades-long Polish People’s Republic, and the foundation of a democratic state with free and fair elections in 1991, the restructuring of local government was deemed necessary.

During the same period, the levels of regional and local self-government in Poland were given a complete revamp – implemented through a series of reforms dating from 1990 and 1998. Inspired by Swedish and French equivalents, the focus shifted towards decentralisation/de-concentration of power through significant self-government. This had a major impact on the provision of infrastructure and services.

This transition has been marked by challenges, one of which is to continue the national digitalisation process, crafting a mature e-government protocol and marrying it with the decentralisation model.

It’s a lot of work for Poland, and to do it right, the country will likely need to improve its performance among its European neighbours.

The current state of play

Poland currently ranks below average amongst its European neighbours in e-government performance, according to the European Commission. It’s latest score in this area comes in at 58%, below the bloc’s average of 68%, and well below the top performer – Malta – at 96%.

In addition, the Commission places each EU member state into one of four broad categories based on the extent of e-government digitalisation and penetration, and Poland has been placed in the lowest category in the latest assessment.

This system ranks each country’s government according to the combined extent of ‘digitalisation’ and ‘penetration’. ‘Fruitful’ e-governments perform well in both those areas, ‘expandable’ e-governments perform well in ‘digitalisation’, ‘unexploited’ e-governments in ‘penetration’. Poland’s ‘non-consolidated’ e-government category perform well in neither. 

“According to the same benchmark study, Poland is characterised by a medium-low level of penetration and a medium-low level of digitisation. Therefore, e-government in Poland is classified as ‘non-consolidated’ and therefore the ICT opportunities are not fully exploited,” the Commission said.

However, zooming in to both ‘penetration’ and ‘digitalisation’ shows that Poland is only underperforming in one key area: cross-border services. Every other sub-category like user centricity and transparency have been described as on-track, meaning that while improvements are needed, work is being done to address them.

The path to GovTech efficiency for Poland

Recent analysis has shown that, for Poland to progress, it needs to be able to further develop ICT infrastructure and training programmes, and the way to ensure this is more investment.

“Expenditure on information technologies in 2019 accounted for 2.9% of GDP, while the EU-27 average was 3.3%” Polish academics Zakrzewska Małgorzata and Miciuła Ireneusz said in a 2021 study.

The development of the e-service sector is a large component of this, since these services constitute 62.3% of the Polish economy.

An economic configuration that favours the development of e-services and the creation of jobs, in addition to maintaining a substantial workforce and appropriate trainings, could help to make Poland profitable to investors.

In Poland, service centres (in charge of accounting, information technology, etc.) are already well integrated. The country could use its European network to build exchange opportunities and thereby increase the export of its services to Europe. Because of this, building and encouraging investment in e-services and other ICT sectors would be beneficial for the country at large.

“Investments should cover central and territorial administration services and databases, as well as the development of commercial networks and e-services,” Małgorzata and Ireneusz said.

Another development area, imperative for e-Government, is open data.

It’s a concept that enables more modern products and services to be created worldwide. They are a source of real savings in financial resources and time. This is useful in many ways, from reporting on the activity of a city and its functioning, to civic transparency.

Here too, there is a disparity between Polish regions and their respective LSGU, which SRD will need to address. Open Data is a source of real savings of financial resources and time. Recipients can use public data resources for their own purposes, to develop their business, social activities and to conduct research.

Overall, “Poland’s performance is offset by below-average scores in digital public services, where additional measures promoting the use of e-government services among businesses and citizens could further boost take-up,” Małgorzata and Ireneusz summarised.

“Simplification efforts, measures to ensure interoperability and capacity building in the public administration are all-important complementary actions and emerging opportunities for Poland to drive digitalisation across the country.”


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t/a Universal Media
360 North Circular Road, Phibsborough, Dublin 7