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Once is enough

The once-only principle is part of an EU strategy designed to make our lives easier. The TOOP (The Once-Only Principle) project was presented at the BRZ on 2nd of November. International and national experts came together to discuss challenges and best-practice examples from ongoing pilot projects.

We all know what a chore it is to submit the same information again and again to different authorities, carrying documents, certificates and paper confirmations from one public office to the next. The once-only principle is intended to put an end to this. The aim is that in the future private individuals and businesses will have to submit standardized information to administrative authorities once only, as the authorities will subsequently exchange the data among themselves. Roland Ledinger, Head of the ICT Strategy Department at the Federal Chancellery, has welcomed this initiative as "an important element of our efforts to offer e-services based on entirely new process concepts".

21 countries participate in this project

More than 50 organizations from 21 EU member states and associated states participate in TOOP. The once-only principle was also included in the EU’s Tallinn declaration. Robert Krimmer, professor of e-government at the Technical University of Tallinn, cites the three key elements, namely sharing data automatically, retrieving stored data instead of requesting the same data again, and improving data reliability. This may sound simple, but at the international level it is quite a complex undertaking. Legal, organizational and technical aspects, such as interoperability, play a critical role in this context. Data are collected in different ways in different states, systems have different architectures, translations into other languages may be required.

There are currently TOOP pilot projects in three areas: cross-border business activities, updating business register data, and certificates for maritime freight transport. Krimmer also presents the example of an Italian online retailer who wants to register his business in Estonia. This retailer will be able to initiate this process on an Estonian portal, the required data will be retrieved from the Italian authorities and the retailer’s business will be registered with no need to enter any data a second time (which, in all likelihood, would have had to be done in English).

One Portal for many eventualities

Until 2010, when the Business Service Portal (USP) was founded, businesses had to submit their data several times as each of the authorities stored information in its own register. The USP is a typical one-stop shop, where data are centrally stored. Georg Nesslinger, who heads a department at the Federal Ministry of Finance, is pleased that the USP helps businesses to save both time and money. He presents the USP’s newest feature: “It is now possible to found a start-up online registering your data just once. Your data are then automatically transferred into the trade and commercial registers and communicated to financial authorities and social security providers.” The TOOP project aims at creating similar solutions at EU level. The Single Digital Gateway is a project closely related to TOOP. It is intended to establish a central portal offering the citizens of EU member states access to 13 services after having entered their data only once.