Berlin wants to introduce a digital file for 70,000 PC workstations

Berlin intends to make significant progress in digitizing its administration over the next year and a half. The Mitte district office is the first authority to use the new version for electronic file management, which is to be introduced nationwide by the end of 2024. The digital file will then be available across the board for around 70,000 PC workstations in around 80 authorities, said Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) on Monday when the project was presented. “For me, the digital file is part of the basic equipment of a modern administration.” Spranger announced that around 15 authorities at district and state level are to switch to electronic file management before the end of this year.

Employees of the State of Berlin should be able to create documents digitally with just a few clicks using the digital file. It is also possible to access the file from anywhere, for example in the home office, and to share it with colleagues, said Spranger. “That will change and simplify many things.” In this way, time should be gained “for their most important task: services for the citizens of our city,” said Spranger. According to the senator, this requires no less than “a cultural change”.

This project is a huge task in the notoriously complex and complicated Berlin system of district and state administrations, but it is by no means new. The Berlin e-government dates from spring 2016, so it came into force in the previous legislative period.

Nevertheless, Ephraim Gothe has a negative example of the current situation ready. Every Monday morning, a long line of Ukrainian refugees forms in front of the job center next to Wedding Town Hall. “You keep hearing from people that they can’t understand it,” reports the long-serving city councilor for the Mitte district. “You can submit the application digitally at home,” says the SPD politician. That doesn’t work here. “Here, applications still have to be filled out by hand.”

That should be different. That is why City Council Gothe is now jointly responsible for the success or failure of the digital file. It has been gradually introduced to the approximately 3,000 employees of the central district office for the past month. The control service there makes the start.

The decisive person for the future of the digital file is probably Ralf Kleindiek, who has been State Secretary in the Senate Department for the Interior, Digitization and Sport for six months as Chief Digital Officer of the State of Berlin. Although he has only been in office for a short time, the man with the long job description thinks he knows what the last problem was: not the lack of will on the part of those involved, “but the necessary commitment,” says Kleindiek. “We’ll make them now.”

Praise for Franziska Giffey, blame for her predecessor

The 56-year-old lawyer, who once made the Ministry for Family Affairs the first completely digital federal ministry, means that competencies had not been bundled in previous years. For example, internal administration and the Senate Chancellery had their own state secretaries for administrative modernization, who worked alongside one another if they didn’t block each other. And then Prime Minister Michael Müller (SPD) missed the opportunity to make administrative modernization a top priority.

At least that can’t happen anymore. From day one, Ralf Kleindiek was the preferred candidate for Müller’s successor, Franziska Giffey (SPD). And the Chief Digital Officer plays the ball back: “Franziska Giffey supports me a lot.” Kleindiek says that she is very interested in the modern and effective administration.

But can this really work? Roman-Francesco Rogat, FDP spokesman for administrative modernization, remains skeptical. “It is to be hoped that this prestige object will not fail here, because the capital finally needs success in the field of e-government,” said Rogat. Berlin must not lose touch with the digital transformation of public administration. For Red-Green-Red, “the topic of digitization should not remain a foreign word”.

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