It should be possible to deal with administrative procedures on a laptop or smartphone. However, this requires skilled workers in the district office. © Fabian Sommer/DPA
The district of Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen is developing a digitization strategy. But there is a long way to go before citizens can do everything online.
Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen – The image of an authority is usually associated – not without reason – with file folders, document folders, stamps and paper forms. But of course, digitization has also been making its way into the offices for a long time. The district is at the forefront here in that District Administrator Josef Niedermaier has been leading the "Innovation Ring" in the Bavarian District Council for eight years. Together with five other Bavarian districts, Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen has now had a digitization strategy developed. When they were adopted by the district committee, however, it became clear that in order to implement them, people are needed again – and personnel are in short supply.
Digitization necessary so that the district office can still cope with its tasks
As a "digital guru", Niedermaier introduced the consultant Benedikt Habbel from the company "Habbel Consulting", who had developed the strategy on behalf of the district office and now presented it. Habbel reported that he had conducted numerous interviews with employees of the district authority for this purpose. He asked them where they themselves see the need for digitization, where they recognize the greatest challenges, but also what fears they associate with it. The contact persons ranged from the district administrator "to the youngest employee in vehicle registration".
In workshops, a "top ten" of the measures with the highest priority was then developed. This involves topics such as "Expanding online procedures", "Qualification of managers", "Equipment" or "Communication security". In the district office, "everyone is aware that, especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers, digitization is an important contribution so that the district offices can still cope with their tasks," Habbel said. The motto of his presentation was: "We want to become more efficient, closer to the citizen and faster."
Digitization must bring relief for the citizen.
District Councillor Martin Bachhuber (CSU)
Wolfgang Krause, head of the "Central Affairs" department at the district office, reported that citizens can currently submit their applications online in 80 different procedures. However, the example he cited also showed where there is still room for improvement. You can apply for a hunting license on the Internet – but once the citizen still has to go to the authorities in person, as the license can only be issued after identity verification.
Krause cited the home office as another major topic in the area of digitization. "It places new demands on employee management," explained the head of department. "And the question arises: How is it compatible with the task of an authority to be there for the citizens on the ground?"
District Councillor Martin Bachhuber (CSU) focused: "Digitization must bring relief for the citizen." He asked: "Is the changeover feasible with the existing staff, or does it have to be staffed? And are there any other costs associated with the measures?" For the ten measures from the current digitization strategy, no expansion of the budget is necessary, Krause replied. However, if the strategy is then further developed – and that is planned – this will certainly generate additional costs.
Outsourcing IT services? District council fears for local self-government
In any case, personnel are needed for implementation. "But there are already a number of positions in IT that we can't fill." His department is working on a bill to exhaust all collective bargaining options, such as allowances, in order to make the remuneration of skilled workers more attractive. "But I'm afraid that even then we won't be able to stink up against the offers from the free economy." Therefore, the question arises as to whether the district office can provide all IT services in-house or whether "one or the other service is outsourced".
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This should be "seriously examined," said Klaus Koch (Greens). The task of a system administrator for the schools can also be outsourced to an external computer service center. "It probably won't be cheaper, but it will be safer and more reliable." Michael Müller (CSU) worried whether such a thing would not undermine the principle of "local self-government". "The dependency is suddenly great, and you can no longer decide things yourself." As a way out, expert Habbel suggested that district offices cooperate and that certain tasks are carried out centrally in one office for several districts.
You can find even more up-to-date news from the region at Merkur.de/Bad Tölz.