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Identification and anonymity in public service provision: Two case studies in the Netherlands  Identification versus anonymity in e-government
 Case studies


Public service provision

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in the aftermath of the economic and political revolutions (i.e., the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution), nationalism became an ideological instrument in Europe to achieve a sense of identity within a nation. It was the nation state which was represented as a unique and essential unity, the living body of its citizens. (Rietbergen, 1998) A new form of government appeared, the nation state as a political institution, with a unique combination of attributions: a written constitution, a system of law based on this constitution, and a specialized civil service committed to the rules and regulations. (Ultee, Arts, & Flap, 1996) But governability requires controlability. The civil registry, introduced by the French when they occupied large parts of Europe, was in many nations maintained after the Napoleonic Wars. Passports and other documentary controls on the movement and identification have been essential to the states’ development as nation states. (Torpey, 2000) And, as we have seen in Chapter 3, bureaucracy became the key feature in the public provision of services (Weber, 1968/1921). 

Public service provision can be divided in two distinct, but related, processes: the front office and the back office. In the front office, the citizen and the public service provider get into contact with each other; this contact can be face-to-face or by mail, phone, or email. In the back office, the forms, letters and emails are handled; decisions are made and then communicated back to the citizen. In the Netherlands, municipalities were traditionally organized around a system of back offices and every public service had its own back office. Over the past decades, ICT applications were implemented in the back office systems to make the processes more effective and efficient. This led to a system of stand-alone, non-integrated back offices, i.e., back offices each had their own citizen registrations which were not connected to the other back offices or a central system.  

Since the early nineties, however, central government provided the central citizen registration systems to municipalities which has not only led to connecting the different back offices of a municipality to each other (Schravendeel & Van der Drift 1993), but also to standardized, and therefore more easily accessible, information in databases. In the late nineties, a more client-oriented vision resulted in developing digital alternatives for the traditional paper-based identification and authentication means by applying new technologies in public service provision (Prins, 2001; EGEM, 2006; Lips, 2006). Electronic forms of identification are not replacing the traditional, paper-based, identification but they are an added feature prompted by a more client-oriented vision.  


Identification and anonymity in public service provision: Two case studies in the Netherlands  fidis-wp5.del5.4-anonymity-egov_01.sxw  Case studies
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