Legal Encounter: Examining Legal Requirements for E-Government in Palestine with Estonia as a Model

In cooperation with the Faculty of Law and Public Administration, the Institute of Law at Birzeit University organized on April 29, 2013 a legal encounter on “The Legal Requirements for E-Government in Palestine: Lessons from Estonia.”
The presentation was made by Professor Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, head of the Chair of Law and Technology at Tallinn Law School, Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. Officials, law practitioners and IT professionals attended the event.
Welcoming the speaker and audience, professor of Constitutional Law Firas Milhem emphasized the need to introduce and discuss e-government issues in the Palestinian context. Highlighting a growing attention to e-government functions, the professor reported on the e-governance initiative that was recently launched by Birzeit University, the High Judicial Council, and several line ministries, including the ministries of telecommunications and interior.
In her opening remarks, professor Nyman-Metcalf explained the concept of e-government and its significance. Though it has not so far been identified in relevant international conventions, e-government can be defined as a tool for digital interaction between citizens and public administration as well as between authorities themselves. E-government strategies can be employed for delivering government information and services to the citizens, she said.
E-government allows effective and efficient interaction between a government and citizens and also between the government and local governments or agencies. Introducing the Estonian experience as a model, the professor described electronic identity cards (e-IDs) used by Estonia citizens. E-IDs are used in several activities, including the filing of electronic tax returns. E-government benefits also include fast and safe government transactions.
Professor Nyman-Metcalf stressed that laws should be in place to allow secure use of e-government delivery models. E-government systems should be secure and capable of detecting errors. Information leakage should be monitored by screening committees that can track down file paths. Unlike paper-based transactions, paperless offices ensure file security. E-government strategies further allow greater capacity to curb cyber corruption.
According to Professor Nyman-Metcalf, several countries have adopted and codified e-signature technology. Special norms are now in place that lay out relevant terminology, moral obligations and controls. The government of Estonia delivers a range of e-services to both common citizens and government bodies, including its housing, culture and education sectors. E-service delivery further assists official decision-making processes. E-democracy also allows increased online public participation in national elections, through both the internet and the mobile telephone.
In the ensuing discussion, participants said that citizens should be able to use e-IDs as they save time and effort. They said that a campaign should be launched to raise public awareness about convenient and cost-effective e-government delivery models.
This legal encounter was organized in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung – Ramallah Office.