How the Internet is helping to improve the relations between governments and citizens. The case of Spain

Ministry of Economy and Finance


The present paper investigates the impact of the Internet on the interaction of Governments and societies, from the viewpoint of the different Departments of Public Administrations.

This paper is centered on the increasing development of ideas to improve the quality of the services offered to the citizens by Governments through the Internet. The ample social demand of these services is forcing the national authorities to build specialized Web-sites for each one of their policy areas. The citizens seek a fast answer to their questions in a framework characterized by fluency and interactivity.

The Internet user asks every Department of Central Administrations to have a Web Server containing the data that he needs. In order to respond to that requirement, Governments must supply their information in a quick and efficient way, dedicating work teams that allow the user to reach the most demanded data. The paper analyzes the present position of Governments about the Internet, and how Governments manage the information for the citizens in the network.

The information anxiety makes the citizen to apply for the data even before or at least at the same time, as the traditional mass media (press, radio or television) can offer them. The demand is very heterogeneous and includes diverse subjects such as the detailed results of some Elections, the traffic information of highways, freeways or airports, the Foreign Affaires with other countries, the last data of unemployment, or the main economic indicators.

But perhaps more important than the information, it is the fact of establishing an interactive relationship between citizens and Public Administrations. The possibility of making actions by means of the Internet that needed before the citizen physical presence in an administrative office encourages society to increase its demand. We already have the tools that make possible to ask for a passport to the Department of the Interior, to pay a traffic fine, or to file the income tax return using the Internet. Public Authorities dedicate more and more resources to cover this demand, conscious of the social acceptance of the new way of providing their services.

In this sense, the position assumed by the countries of the European Union with respect to the establishment of a common legal frame for the electronic signature, is remarkable, mainly with respect to its legal effectiveness and to the certification services for the users.

The paper studies, in detail, the situation in Spain, although it extends its conclusions to the case of other countries of the European Union. The Government's performance in its relations with the citizens through the Internet is analyzed for each Department: Presidency, Foreign Affaires, Justice, Defense, Economy and Finances, Interior, Infrastructures, Education and Culture, Work and Social Security, Industry and Energy, Food and Agriculture, Public Administrations, Environment and Health and Consumption.

Finally, the paper focuses on a darker aspect of the future governments' behavior on this subject: Is it possible to require rates or taxes on the Internet? The globalization of the economies in the digital era can be a temptation to impose regulations in the systems. What would be the impact of these attempts?



The Internet social phenomenon has become, in the last years, an element of basic connection between citizens and  Public Administrations of the different countries. Governments have understood the role that the Internet is playing as a way of universal communication.  Politicians and civil workers know its possibilities to improve and to power the information channels between  public services and the rest of society. At this moment it is difficult to find a public department of any OECD's country with no presence in the WWW through its institutional pages.

Certainly,  modern societies based on fast and fluid communications, look in the Internet for a new impulse in the relations citizens - Administrations. Citizens use the Internet from two points of view: informative and managerial. On the other hand, Administrations try to take advantage of the cost savings generated by the communication with social agents through the Internet, and the good social acceptance that the Network has had among most of its users anywhere in the world.

The different Departments of a Government are virtually present in the Internet by means of the WWW service, so that the concept of administrative specialization as a service to the citizen, acquires its highest meaning in the Internet. Now citizens not only have access to the information and administrative processes of the diverse public services, but the opportunity of knowing in a detailed way the organization and structures of all the Public Administrations. Furthermore, the easy communication with some of the Administration's managers and staff through friendly means, as it is the electronic mail, attracts formerly reluctant citizens.

The explosion of the Internet, and in particular the WWW service, has also been welcomed in the rest of institutions of the states. The Spanish Congress [1] and Senate [2] Web sites have displayed all their legislative information and their ways of Government control. The Senate has gone further creating a Special Commission on Computer Science Networks [3] that analyzes the present situation of the Internet in Spain, and that provides some forums of discussion with citizens.

The  Electronic Signature Laws of the different European Union countries will give protection and security to the potentially impressive electronic commerce growth, but in addition they will serve for a correct identification of citizens in multiple administrative processes now available through the Internet. Thanks to these Laws, the Electronic Unique Window project, born with the main goal of getting a narrower approach between Administration and citizens, begins to become a reality.

Citizens demand public services through the Internet

Since the beginning of the WWW implantation, Public Administrations have been present in the Internet using this information display tool. Some of the Web sites the most visited in the world correspond to public agencies. The cyberspace has emerged, during the last years, as a perfect place of encounter among social agents, where the communication is more and more fluid.

As a matter of fact, citizens make use of the increasing utility of this means, and they demand new services every day. The basic services that a citizen demands to the Administration through the Internet, are centered on some key aspects: Firstly, the possibility of access to the informative production of the Administration, that is to say data bases, bibliographical documentation, official reports on plans and objectives, budgets, etc. This kind of information was already public before, but its distribution methods based on specialized stores, or the rudimentary sale systems in the administrative offices, implied that actually just a few people could have access to it at the suitable moment, considering its fast expiration. In Spain, documents like the Program of Stability of the Kingdom of Spain, 1998-2002 [4], the Budget Project for the Spanish State, year 2000 [5], the Macroeconomic Forecasts 1999-2000 [6], or the Plan of Transition to the Euro [7], offered in PDF format, have been unloaded by thousands of citizens, and hundreds of electronic mails from individuals and companies have been received asking about their exact location within the institutional Web sites.

Secondly, the citizens' demand is going towards a deep knowledge of the structure and functions of the Public Departments; citizens need to know the obligations of each Department, including all its dependencies, and they value the simplicity of access to its workers by using electronic mail. They also look for the location of each office, and for basic information on addresses, telephone, fax, timetables, etc.

Finally, citizens look for an interactive and fluid communication with Public Administrations. They demand a fast answer to their questions, and they seek to progressively replace their physical presence or their telephone call, by an impersonal communication through the electronic mail. The electronic certification is highly valued by citizens, who aspire to make numerous administrative negotiations using the Internet in a next future.

Two aspects that have brought a high interest among the Spanish population, looking at the new possibilities opened by the Internet, are the fiscal and the electoral subjects.

The fiscal obligations constitute, in all the countries, some of the most disturbing administrative proceedings for citizens. The easy access to the tax offices through the WWW, includes the fast unloading of software necessary to fill in the tax forms (the Spanish PADRE software [8] was unloaded 273.065 times during the 1998 Tax Campaign). The fluidity in the electronic delivery of the tax return, and the simplification in the liquidation process (in case of liquidations to pay, an online transaction with the citizen's bank, is nowadays a very common operation) are considered as very positive aspects. If the Administration must give back money to the taxpayer, the latter may immediately receive an electronic transaction into his/her bank account.

The 1998 Income Tax Return Campaign (Tax collected in May-June 1999), developed by the Spanish Tax Administration Agency [9],  launched, as an experimental test, the filing of the income tax return through the Internet. As a result, 21,559 tax forms were filed by this means. The pattern of people filing their tax returns this way, responds to individual taxpayers (65 percent), taxpayers filing the tax return in the brief model (50 percent), taxpayers asking for money back (98 percent), and taxpayers represented by a third person authorized by the Tax Agency (61 percent). As proof in the communicative flow citizens-Administration, it can be said that the visits to the Spanish Tax Administration Agency's Web site during the campaign increased a 332 percent comparing to the previous year, getting a total number of 1.507.426.

The right to vote looks for new horizons in the Internet, as much in the aspect of access to the electoral results, as in the future possibility of the electronic vote, at a hypothetical moment of true universality of the Internet in society. In Spain the Ministry of the Interior made, in the 1996 Legislative Elections, the first experience on instantaneously showing the electoral results, with continuous updates during the scrutiny, and giving information at national, regional and municipal level. The success of the experience is a good precedent for other successive electoral appointments, and it is hoped that, in the 2000 Legislative Elections, the voters access to this Web site will be massive.

Within the possibilities of the electronic vote, it is necessary to cite the most advanced project on this subject presented in Spain, corresponding to the works carried out by the Basque Government [10]. The new proposed system of voting will be a pioneering method based on the electronic ballot and the cabin with screen to vote, as well as on the electronic box ballot. It will allow the instantaneous votes count by means of telematic transmission. The Basque Government, once analyzed other systems of electronic voting in the world, has chosen the option proposed in Belgium, to adapt it to its needs. Now they face the implantation in Euskadi of the electronic vote in the Elections to the Basque Parliament that will be celebrated in a next future.

The new system of voting contains some necessary elements for its development: 1. The electronic voting cabin that, using specific software and electronic certification, preserves the privacy in the selection of the option by the voter. 2. In the screen to vote, the voter will be able to select the wished vote option by previous validation of his voting card. 3. The electronic ballot box, that is constituted in an element of validation of the electronic vote issued by the voter. There is no doubt that this qualitative jump in the future electoral processes of the Basque Country, by means of the incorporation of the system of the electronic vote, will force a modification of the present electoral law.

It is also important to mention the experience of the European Commission in electoral aspects. The Office of the European Parliament in Spain has made an important effort through its Internet server [11] to improve the information on the June 1999 European Parliament Elections. Three complementary information services have been started. A dedicated site has been designed to serve as link between the Euro-deputies and the citizens; it includes a window opened to the participation, called Voice of Europe, that tries to allow the parliamentarians to answer the fundamental doubts that the Spanish citizens might have. Another initiative is the Europe 99 server [12], that contains information on the candidates in all the countries.

In addition, from the year 2000 onwards, the Europe 21 project will serve to create a virtual community of European politicians, that will offer information on the European representatives in the Parliament, the most important events of the EU, and the development of the different European policies.

Two of the main features that make the Commission's server an important way of communication with the European citizens, are the information display in the eleven official languages and the publication of all the present legislation. The connection with all the institutions as a confederation of servers, as well as with the offices of representation in the States members, has been a great achievement.

The Electronic Signature Law in Spain

The European Union has shown a great interest in searching for a common position among its countries before the electronic signature project. The security and integrity protection in the electronic communications has been a priority subject for the Spanish Administration in the last years. The Spanish Electronic Signature Law [13] regulates the use of the digital signature, giving legal effectiveness to it, and it anticipates the legal norms applicable to the Certification Server Providers.

As antecedents to this law, some normative dispositions related to electronic information transactions in several aspects have been issued in Spain: The Spanish Tax Administration Agency regulated the Income Tax Return through the Internet in 1999 [14]. The National Commission of the Stocks Market (CNMV), the office in charge of the supervision and inspection of the financial markets in Spain, allowed in 1998 a system of coding and electronic signature, with cryptographic algorithms based on the public key system, for information transactions with the supervised organizations (CIFRADOC/CNMV) [15], that guarantees the authenticity, integrity, confidentiality and not rejection of the remittance. Otherwise, the Tax, Administrative and Social Order Subjects Law [16] granted to the Spanish Mint (FNMT) [17] the possibility of offering technical and administrative services to guarantee the security, the validity and the effectiveness of the transmission and reception of communications through electronic means. It is considered, in addition, that the Spanish entrepreneur sector is enabled to give a service of electronic certification of enough quality .

This law wants to give some elements of confidence in the systems for the electronic services' users, allowing their introduction and fast diffusion. It determines the registry where certification service providers will have to sign in, and the norms on administrative inspection of their activity, regulates the issue and loss of effectiveness of certificates and specifies the ways of inspection and the sanctions foreseen to guarantee its fulfillment.

About the use of the electronic signature by  Public Administrations, the Electronic Signature Law establishes that, independently of national or autonomic norms on electronic signature, additional conditions could be established in order to safeguard the guarantees of each administrative procedure. Among these additional conditions it is included a service of consignment of date and time for electronic documents integrated in an administrative file. This service will consist of the accreditation by the certification service provider, or by a third person, of the date and time in which an electronic document is sent by the signatory or received by the addressee.

It will be possible to put under a specific law the use of the electronic signature in the communications that affect the classified information, the public security or the defense. Also, the Minister of Economy and Finances, respecting the conditions showed in the law, will be able to dictate a special normative to guarantee the fulfillment of the fiscal obligations. So that, referring to the tax management, that normative could determine the possibility for the signatory to be an individual or a company.

It has been established, in the Ministry of Justice, the Registry of Certification Service Providers. The providers settled in Spain will have to previously ask for their inclusion in it, at the beginning of their activity. This Registry will be public and permanently updated and a list of the enrolled providers will have to remain available for any person. It will show data on names or trade names, Internet addresses or electronic mail addresses, data of verification of the electronic signatures and, in case, the condition of authorized to issue recognized certificates. The data introduced in the Registry will be accessible via electronic means or through a registry certification.

The certificates issued as recognized by the certification service providers in a country non member of the European Union, in agreement with the legislation of that country, will be considered equivalent to the ones issued by the providers established in Spain, whenever: 1. The service provider fulfils the requirements included in the communitarian electronic signature law and has been authorized, according to a voluntary system established in a State member of the European Union. 2. The certificate is guaranteed by a service provider of the European Union that fulfils the requirements established in the communitarian norm on electronic signature. 3. The certificate or the service provider is recognized by a bilateral or multilateral agreement between the European Union and third international countries or organizations.

In order to know the technical characteristics of the implementation of the electronic signature in Spain, whose first steps have been done by the PCET (Public Certification of Electronic Transactions) project, see the paper [18].

Adapting taxes to the Internet

As it is well known, tax matter constitutes an important aspect of the Economy that does not escape from the influence of the Internet. It is more than probable that in the short or medium term, and facing the incessant revolution of the electronic commerce,   Governments whose citizens must pay for the Value Added Tax (VAT), will coordinate some solution on the subject. The virtual elimination of economic and political borders derived from the Internet, is a true threat for the traditional tax systems.

At the moment, it is known the difficulty for applying taxes to activities of electronic commerce made between Spanish or other European citizens, in whose national territory the VAT is compulsory, and a company of another country whose commercial activities are not taxed by the VAT. But, on the other hand, it may seem unfair that Spanish or European companies, dealing with their Internet servers, must include the VAT in the price of their products, because they can suffer important damages in competition terms.

The computer science networks are becoming a serious threat to the appraisal of the taxes in the origin, due to their difficult control. The OECD continues analyzing this fiscal situation in a global way, given the difficulties that each country creates when approaching the problem in an individual way. The central idea is the adaptation of the different fiscal administrations to the new environments of the electronic commerce through the Internet. The criteria that must inspire this work are those of neutrality and impartiality, as well as the need to avoid an excess of taxes. The present solution happens to establish moratoriums in the tax processing of the electronic commerce, that will allow an ample development of this activity in the next years.

Meanwhile, it is being studied the possibility of becoming the Internet Service Provider (ISP) the one in charge of the control of the commercial transactions made by their clients, taking advantage of his knowledge on them, to impose the corresponding VAT. Other alternatives have been analyzed; one of them recommends that each Internet user should pay for the amount of information transferred to his computer. An easy way of tax collecting has been suggested on the part of governments, by means of the financial institutions that issue the credit cards. What it seems absolutely impossible, is that a government of a country where payment of VAT is compulsory, can demand the tax collection to a salesman of a country where the VAT is not required.

In order to clarify many conflicting aspects of the taxes on commerce in the Internet, in Spain the Commission for Taxes on the Electronic Commerce has been created. This Commission tries to project some basic lines about tax norms on the electronic commerce. Among their conclusions, it proposes the need to define the obligations and rights of the electronic commerce and the clients. The consumer must know what fiscal information must be supplied by the commerce center, which invoices are valid and which are not, which way of payment is advisable and which rights protect the taxpayer in case of non-fulfillment or rejection of the transaction.

The Commission finds the necessity of raising an activity or a legal figure that allows the creation of online businesses having network commercial activity only, and of establishing a framework that allows the global uniformity on tax matters. Thus, they try to avoid the fact that companies could transfer their activity centers due to specific interests in tax matters. They look for a tax regulation on the multisale, avoiding the use of the Internet for fraudulent pyramidal sales.

The Department of Tributes of the Ministry of Economy and Finances has issued diverse norms about some consultations  related to taxes on commerce made through the Internet [19]. For example, it is established that imports of specific computer science products have the consideration of service supplies due to the nature of this type of products. The free cession of software (shareware) has the consideration of self-consumption of services, being non taxed the operation when the mentioned cession is made as a test. The distribution through the Internet of information with identical content to that already published in paper format, is not considered as a goods delivery because it is not intended the transmission of the possession on physical goods. In the case of  publicity services provided by companies settled in the territory of application of the Spanish VAT, using a Web site hosted in a server located in the United States, the latter location is not had in consideration when determining the true location of these services.

The Spanish Tax Administration Agency's Web site has a section of Resolutions of the Department of Tributes including several consultations on this individual.

An experience of Electronic Parliament

In order to analyze the general interest generated by the Internet phenomenon, and designed as an open window to the debate in Spanish society, the Spanish Senate approved in February of 1998 the creation of the Special Commission on Computer Science Networks [3]. Its mission during almost two years, has been to deeply study the political, economic, social, cultural and technological consequences, derived from the use of the Internet.

The Spanish Government, like the rest of governments of the European Union, has considered as a priority the promotion of the technological development advantages. Therefore, during the period of its existence, the Commission has consulted a great number of national and foreign experts, in order to write a final report that supposes a diagnosis of the present situation in the development of computer science networks. It contains a special incidence on the Internet, and a series of proposals for the future.

The initiative has been complemented with the creation of a Public Forum, where citizens are expressing their personal opinions in subjects related to the own Commission's work, where economic, labor, legal, cultural and political aspects on the Network, may be included. The conclusions of the Commission are based on laying the foundations to get an increase in the social welfare caused by a redistribution of the results derived from the increment in the productivity. It also tries to offer alternatives to the destruction of traditional jobs by means of the continuous introduction of new information technologies.

Referring to the performance of Public Administrations, the Commission considers as urgent an immediate decision making on questions related to the Internet from a public point of view. As an immediate step, it has been proposed a consensus among the political parties to guarantee the access to the new information technologies to all the population, considering its character of service and right that public agents must guarantee.

The Commission is sensitive in respect to the developing societies, promoting their incorporation to the modern techniques of information, preferentially to the countries of the Latin American and the North Africa areas.

The Commission conclusions have been presented to the Plenary session of the Senate in December of 1999. They demand a public system that guarantees the computer science security, and the constitution of a representative organism where different points of view can be interchanged, in order to use it to build a self-regulation framework that origins a global and effective Network. In this line, the Commission asks to the Armed Forces and Security Corps Operative Units to increase their human and technical funds to make an effective work of prevention, pursuit and control of the illicit contents and practices through the Network.

It also requires Public Administrations to develop plans of digital alphabetization for students, young and elderly and disable people. These plans should eliminate the barriers of learning and use of computer equipment, promoting the electronic access to   libraries, cultural, civic, health care and educational centers, in the urban and rural areas. A Virtual University District as well as Digital Libraries will be created to approach the education and culture to all the citizens.

Public powers will foment and stimulate the companies' access to the Network, including aids to the equipment installation. So that it will be possible to arrive, through the electronic commerce, at one more a more dynamic, competitive and opened economy, able to generate new forms of employment.

Since it is accepted that the Network has to be the vehicle to favor a new relation of proximity between Administration and citizens, it is considered necessary to immediately power a plan of digital modernization of Public Administrations. As a result of that, having a modern and transparent Administration, citizens will manage direct, fast and effectively their interests, using documentation, resolutions, legislation and norms, freely available for them, as well as all that information that does not harm any fundamental right or guarantee. Also, the parliamentary institutions will use the electronic networks to approximate the relations between the Representative and the Represented, facilitating the active and direct participation of citizens in their activities and procedures.

Electronic Unique Window Project for the Spanish Public Administrations in the Internet

With the help of the WWW service, Public Administrations are getting a cost decrease derived from the information processing and divulging, since they can now place administrative documents and information in their pages allowing the citizens to unload them, instead of publishing in paper. On the other hand, the information offered to the citizen through this means is sufficiently updated, against the fast expiration of data published in paper.

The Directory of Electronic Information Services analyzed by the Superior Council of Computer Science in 1995, already showed that the Spanish Public Administration offered 429 different information services for citizens and companies, whose access was not at all unified. 42% of those services were accessible through public networks. Taking in account only the most important of those services, their diffusion means were as follows: 36%  were accessible through IBERPAC (public networks based on X.25 services), 19% through Basic Telephone Network, 5% through IBERTEX (specialized public networks for professional people), and only a 3% through the Internet. Obviously, the present situation has radically changed in favor of the Internet, although unfortunately we do not have precise information on that. During the last four years, the Administration has been looking for a common interface of access to all that information, and the WWW service has been adopted due to its universal character as platform of information consultation. From the Spanish Administration it is thought that the generalized use of the WWW service by their different Departments is being the best instrument of approach to the citizen.

In Spain, the General Administration, represented by the Ministry of Public Administrations, is developing a project of Electronic Unique Window, whose departure point is the interconnection of public registries. The main goal is improving the citizen's accessibility to the Administration, connecting all the offices of the different administrative levels: National, Autonomic and Local. The access from any remote place to the public databases has been foreseen, as well as the possibility of making any administrative proceeding from the work place or from the own citizen home.

The Administration must promote the citizens' knowledge of the forms of access to the public data, and the distribution of the public information to the greatest number of citizens, with minimum cost and response times. These are the objectives of the Center for Administrative Information [20], a project that tries to facilitate the navigation through all those servers of the Spanish Public Administrations (National, Autonomic and Local) containing public information.

At the moment, the works have been addressed to the creation of a directory that provides information (mailing addresses, telephone, fax, and electronic mail) about different units and managers, based on recommendation ITU-T X.500 [21]. The final goal is to help the citizen to uniformly manage the administrative proceedings. The project will affect in the future to more than 13,000 registry units of the General, Autonomic and Local Administrations.

Thus, the relationships with citizens are being increased, generalizing the access to the services of the Center for Administrative Information, that contains the possibility of consultation on public employment supplies, calls for prizes, scholarships, aids and subventions, etc.

The distribution of information points accessible from the Center, is the following one: Central Administration, 22%; Autonomic Administration, 19%; Local Administration, 59%. It also contains connections to servers of Institutions and Services of the European Union.

Companies have fundamentally used the new telecommunications and data transmission technologies for the massive transfer of information to the Administration. However, the fast growth of the information highways, during the present decade, has generated the necessary infrastructure to generalize the use of systems for electronic data interchange. The most outstanding changes have been observed in the commercial relationships between consumers and companies, as well as in the communication between individuals and Public Administrations, taking advantage from all the possibilities that the Internet generates for the economic development.

But, to reach this objective, it is necessary to power the security of those communications and transactions from a technical and legal point of view. Both aspects constitute the objective of the Electronic Signature Law in Spain, in whose legal frame the digital signature fulfils, referred to electronic documents, the two main characteristics that are attributed to the hand-written companies signature. That is to say, the imputation to one person (allowing the identification of the document's author) and the guarantee of integrity (assuring that the message has not been manipulated after being signed, and detecting any alteration). In addition to that, the use of the mentioned technology of digital signature allows to encode the document's content, so that it travels encrypted through the Network preventing its knowledge by non authorized people, and obtaining a third effect of confidentiality.

With the legal recognition of the electronic signature, the development of an Electronic Unique Window, from which the citizen can make numerous administrative procedures from any personal computer, is at the moment a fact. Certainly, the electronic signature can be used in all type of documents that are not subject to particular exigencies of certain forms. Among these documents are those of request of licenses, public bidding, tax returns, etc. Therefore, the electronic signature opens the doors to the possibility of document registry in any of the Public Administrations, through an only center (Electronic Unique Window), and to the citizens' files transactions.

FIGURE 1. Electronic Unique Window Project. Spanish Public Administration

The electronic and telematic aspects associated to the Unique Window are being carried out by the Ministry of Public Infrastructures, through the PISTA (Promotion and Identification of Emergent Services in Advanced Telecommunications) Project [22]. The security aspects are essential into this project. The main goal is getting the participation of all Ministries, Departments, Public Agencies, and Autonomic and Local Administrations, in order to develop and use their applications in an effective way. The electronic certification services will be promoted by providing a confidence network among Certification Authorities, and creating a service of Web sites certification.

This project consists of two subprojects. The first subproject is based on the interconnection of operational registries, at levels of electronic interchange of registry entries, structured electronic documents and non structured electronic documents. The second subproject is about the administrative information services along with the electronic transactions, developing an integrated guide of benefits and services. This subproject intends to facilitate the access to existing document models used in administrative procedures transactions, promoting the initiation of procedures by means of the shipment of standardized electronic forms, and it tries to enable the electronic transaction of procedures, allowing the communication between intervening Administrations and   citizens.

Public Administrations and the Internet. Brief description of the present situation in Spain

The Spanish Government, as an agreement of its Ministers Council celebrated in April 1999, has elaborated a Strategic Initiative for the development of the Information Society in Spain. As a consequence of that, the Ministers Council has created a Commission for the Development of the Information Society, presided by the Minister of Industry and Energy, that will foment the interdepartmental collaboration by integrating partial plans.

The Spanish Administration, as in the case of many other countries, has considered the need of an increasing presence in the Internet. The Presidency of the Government opened one of the first official Web sites, The Moncloa Window [23]. From this address, citizens get access to the official press notes issued by the different government areas, through the Secretariat of State for Communication. It contains links to all the General and Autonomic Administration Departments that have incorporated themselves to the Internet in the last years.

The Sociological Research Center (CIS) [24], agency dependent on Presidency, makes continuous studies and surveys on public opinion, whose results are readily accessible by all society. Among these studies they appear some relative to holidays habits, health, vote intention and politicians valuation, cultural and labor level, etc. All the official legal documents (Decrees, Laws, Orders, etc.) are published in the Spanish Official Bulletin (BOE) [25], also dependent on Presidency. At this moment, many of the BOE contents are freely accessible, and it is hoped that, due to the social avalanche asking for its total gratuity, this service will be absolutely free for the citizen at the short term.

The Ministry of Foreign Affaires [26] offers information, among other subjects, of warnings and advises for Spanish people traveling to other countries, foreign policy aspects, international cooperation, foreign embassies and consulates in Spain, etc. This Web site receives 200,000 visits a year.

The Ministry of Justice [27] gives information on the present situation of Justice in Spain, explaining the plans that are being followed to make the judicial processes in the Courts more agile, and trying to increase the protection to citizens in their right to litigate. Its Web site includes an interactive service used to ask for the opinion of  people involved on the controversial subject of the Objection of Conscience in Spain directly related to the fulfillment of the Obligatory Military Service (to extinguish in the mid term). It also displays a huge number of data on religious subjects, international legal cooperation, free legal attendance, attainment of the Spanish nationality, etc. This server has around 200,000 visits a year.

The Ministry of Defense Web site [28] informs on the Defense policy in Spain, the military education, the Defense organization, the professional military specialty, the Eurocorps (grouping of military units from Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Luxembourg), etc. It displays an application with access to a database, that allows the user (citizen waiting for his incorporation to the Obligatory Military Service), to know his destiny by introducing his ID number.

The present information in the Ministry of Economy and Finances Web site [29], talks about the great areas of the Spanish economic policy: Economy, Taxes, Commerce, Tourism, Small and Medium Companies, and Budgets and Expenses. Citizens can unload all the information related to the single european currency (Euro), know the financial products offered by the Treasure, the official data on economic trends, or all the dispositions on taxes. This Web site receives around 500,000 annual visits. Since last year, and as one of the first experiences in this sense in the world, Spanish citizens can file their income tax return through the Internet, from the Spanish Tax Administration Agency's Web site [9]. An ample information on the services of this Ministry in the Internet can be found in [18]. Other interesting Web sites, dependent on this Ministry, are those of the Treasury [30], the National Bureau of Statistics (INE) [31], the Spanish Bureau of Foreign Trade (ICEX) [32], The Spanish Office of Tourism (Tourspain) [33], etc.

From the Ministry of the Interior Web site [34], it is possible to know all the necessary steps to get the ID or the Passport, although at a short time, when the electronic signature law was totally operative, people will be able to make these proceedings using the Internet. The last new developments related to the National Plan on Drugs can be consulted, encouraging to all citizens to participate with their suggestions. From the Department of Traffic Web site [35], dependent on Interior, it can be known the online state of the highways, and even the best route to follow between two points of the Spanish geography. Spanish citizens can already make charges from the Department of the Police site [36], filling up a form with their personal data and a description of the facts, as well as the police station where they want to address the claim. Until now it is only possible to denounce robberies.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructures [37] informs in its Web site on the infrastructure plans: freeways, ports, airports, railway lines, etc., as well as on geographic data and metrology. From the National Postal Service site [38], information on the postal code of any municipality of Spain can be obtained. People may consult a great deal of philatelic reports. This Ministry is promoting some relevant aspects on the Internet environment. Among them, it is remarkable the standardization of the card readers devices, in order to develop the use of the electronic signature in the relationships between citizens and Public Administrations.

In the Ministry of Education and Culture Web site [39] it can be found all the information on the Spanish educative system, Universities, National Library [40], Beaux Arts, Cinema, etc. It is highly interesting the interactive search through a Database of all the doctoral theses read in Spain since 1976 (TESEO Database) [41]. The Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) [42] offers an ample information on research and technological development, courses, aids, etc. The number of annual visits to this server is around 1,000,000.

The Ministry of Work and Social Subjects [43] displays ample information on policies of employment in Spain, labor laws, agreements for the employment stability, and the National Program for Professional Training. It receives around 70,000 annual visits. It shows diverse activities of tele-work and tele-training. The National Institute of Employment (INEM) [44] is the office that acts as an intermediary between companies and workers, offering an ample range of education and training services in order to improve the workers qualifications.

In the Web site of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food [45], it can be consulted all the information related to the Agriculture, Cattle, Rural Development, Fishing, Food and Agricultural Insurances. People can make inquiries using the database of Aids to Agriculture.It receives 200.000 visits a year.

The Ministry of Public Administrations [46] informs on the execution of the Government policy on subjects of administrative organization, legal aspects of the Public Function, procedures and inspection of services, relations with the Autonomous Communities and the organizations that integrate the Local Administration, as well as the cooperation with them and the coordination of the General Administration of the Spanish State in their territory. In the last years, it has been specially useful the Web site dedicated to the Year 2000 problem, as well as the reports relative to the Project of Electronic Unique Window.

In the Ministry of Environment Web site [47] it is shown, in an exhaustive way, information on the current state of the environment, and the environmental Spanish laws. There is a direct access to documents of public utility, like the White Book of the Water and the White Book of the Environmental Education, etc. National Parks and Forest policies, Meteorology, Climate, etc.

The Ministry of Health and Consumption [48] offers in its Web site information on Health Care Centers and Drugs. They are specially interesting the sections with information on the HIV, Public Health, and National Organization for Transplants. The Spanish Agency for Drugs [49] informs on procedures for the evaluation of new drugs and the development of a Spanish system of Pharmacy-surveillance to guarantee the control and security of drugs. The National Institute of the Consumption [50] makes the functions for promoting the consumers and users rights.

The Ministry of Industry and Energy [51] informs on all the subjects related to industrial and energetic policy, with special attention to Industry and Technology, Energy, Mines, etc. The Center for Energetic, Environmental and Technological Research (CIEMAT) [52] develops the I+D policy for the energy and mining sectors. Around 800.000 visits a year.

Public administrations of other European Union countries in the Internet

All the European Union countries have implemented a central Internet server, that includes connections to the main Ministries, Departments and other Agencies of their Public Administrations. Next, there are some interesting aspects about several UE's countries and their presence in the Internet.

In France, from the Web Sites Publics [53] it is possible to get access to any of the sites of the French Government, Departments and Institutions. The French Government Web site contains a great variety of information, including the conclusions of the Meeting of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Information Society (January 1999). Among these conclusions are that of the Creation of a legislative framework to protect exchanges and privacy, the Development of the French culture on the Internet, and the Project towards the Electronic Administration.

In Germany, the Web site of the Bundesregierung [54] offers information on the German Federal Government. The Foreign Affairs Division of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government has developed an Internet Guide [55]. Through this guide, it is easy to locate the Internet addresses corresponding to all aspects of the German life: policy, economy, justice, education, environment, culture, etc.

In Italy, the Authority for the Information Technology in the Public Administration (AIPA) [56], has among its tasks, the promotion of the information systems developments within the Public Administrations. Its main goal is the services improvement, by decreasing costs, and by serving as a tool for the decision making process within the Government. The AIPA prepares strategic technology plans, sets standards and criteria, and maintains the Administrations' interconnections, with quality and security.

The United Kingdom has an entrance to the Internet through a main page containing an alphabetical listing of the UK Government bodies on the Network. The CCTA Government Information Service [57] is the official Web of the government, having links to all the aspects of the British public life. From this site, it is possible to accede to the main British Ministries, District and County Councils, etc.

In the case of Portugal, it is interesting to cite the INFOCID [58] experience, that is being a revolutionary process of modernization of the Portuguese Public Administration. This project works on the new trends in Public Administration using the information technologies. INFOCID has been thought as a citizen-oriented information system.

The best window to get access to all the main EU Public Administrations Web sites, is the well known Governments Online page [59], managed by the European Commission. It also contains links to the rest of European Countries.



The EU countries are making an important effort to get a better use of the Internet. Governments try to improve the public information offered to citizens by means of the Network. The European Authorities suggest  to facilitate by the end of year 2000, the access to the following types of public data: legal and administrative information, environmental information, and real time traffic conditions and congestion data.

The Spanish Public Administration is working on those aspects, realizing that changes derived from this Information Revolution will possitively affect the whole community at the short time. All the Spanish Public Institutions (National, Autonomic, Local) advance on building a solid structure where citizens can feel secure when interacting with public services, from the view point of the data privacy. Otherwise, tax aspects derived from the electronic commerce are being analyzed by the Tax Administration, that tries to apply some measures that safeguard the principles of fairness, generality and equity of taxes, while a definitive international legal tax framework is being designed.

The Electronic Unique Window is an ambitious project that, with the development of the electronic signature in Spain, will get to unify all the administrative registries in a next future, in order to allow citizens to make a great number of different negotiations with public powers using a simple PC.



  1. The Spanish Congress.
  2. The Spanish Senate.
  3. Senate: Special Commission on Computer Science Networks.
  4. Program of Stability of the Kingdom of Spain, 1999-2002.
  5. Budget Project for the Spanish State, year 2000.
  6. Macroeconomic Forecasts 1999-2000.
  7. Plan of Transition to the Euro.
  8. PADRE: Income Tax Return Aid Software.
  9. Spanish Tax Administration Agency (AEAT).
  10. Basque Government.
  11. European Parliament, Office in Spain.
  12. Europe 99.
  13. Spanish Electronic Signature Law. Real Decreto-Ley 14/1999. BOE Nš 224 (September 18, 1999)
  14. AEAT. Income Tax Return through the Internet.
  15. National Commission for the Stocks Market (CNMV). CNMV (CIFRADOC/CNMV).
  16. Tax, Administrative and Social Order Subjects Law. Law 66/1997. BOE Nš 313 (December 31, 1997)
  17. Spanish Mint (FNMT). The FNMT is the Spanish Agency in charge of the production of official banknotes, coins, passports, identity cards, postage stamps, drafts, game tickets, goverment publications, chip and telephone cards, medals and securities.
  18. Zapardiel, J.A. ; Garcia, F. Why should a Government invest in the Internet? The experience of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Spain. The Internet Global Summit. Proceedings. INET99. Internet Society. San Jose, California. USA.
  19. AEAT. Database for fiscal consults.
  20. Center for Administrative Information.
  21. X.500. Information technology. Open Systems Interconnection. "The Directory: Overview of concepts, models and services." August 1997.
  22. PISTA (Promotion and Identification of Emergent Services in Advanced Telecommunications).
  23. The Moncloa Window.
  24. The Sociological Research Center (CIS).
  25. The Spanish Official Bulletin (BOE).
  26. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  27. The Ministry of Justice.
  28. The Ministry of Defense.
  29. The Ministry of Economy and Finances.
  30. Spanish Treasury.
  31. National Bureau of Statistics.
  32. Spanish Bureau of Foreign Trade.
  33. Spanish Office of Tourism (Tourspain).
  34. The Ministry of the Interior.
  35. Department of Traffic.
  36. Department of the Police.
  37. The Ministry of Public Infrastructures.
  38. National Postal Service.
  39. The Ministry of Education and Culture.
  40. Spanish National Library.
  41. TESEO Database.
  42. The Spanish Council for Scientific Research.
  43. The Ministry of Work and Social Subjects.
  44. National Institute for the Employment.
  45. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food.
  46. The Ministry of Public Administrations.
  47. The Ministry of the Environment.
  48. The Ministry of Health and Consumption.
  49. Spanish Agency for Drugs.
  50. National Institute of Consumption.
  51. The Ministry of Industry and Energy.
  52. Center for Energetic, Environmental and Technological Research.
  53. France. Site Publics.
  54. Germany. Bundesregierung.
  55. Germany. Internet Guide. Foreign Affairs Division of the Press and Information Office.
  56. Italy. AIPA (Authority for the Information Technology in the Public Administration).
  57. United Kingdom. CCTA Government Information Service.
  58. Portugal. INFOCID.
  59. European Commission. Governments Online.