Digitization must not be done “by force” and against the Internet user, warns the Defender of Rights

The dematerialization of public services is the subject of a new alert from the Defender of Rights. The problems have not diminished since the last time, even if the authorities are aware of the difficulties of some people.

It’s a 90 page reportwhich acts as a waypoint since the last document published in 2019, in which the Defender of Rights already warned of the risks and excesses of this digital transformation. It is a report that also contains nearly forty recommendations to reduce a digitization that the institution qualifies as an evolution “ forced march “.

Released February 16this balance sheet (“ Dematerialization of public services: three years later, where are we? “) has a particular hue: the coronavirus epidemic has been there and the various confinements, the encouragement of teleworking and the use of digital procedures have undoubtedly highlighted, more than ever, inequalities.

If the elderly are a category of people very exposed to a risk of dropping out in the face of digitization, other audiences are also concerned. // Source: Stevebp

This is what emerges from the report: even though the public authorities seem to have been sensitive to the institution’s findings and recommendations, the number of alerts and complaints related to dematerialization is not declining, and is even increasing “. Difficulties can feed a feeling of abandonment felt by part of the population. »

Because the report of the Defender of Rights makes the observation of a ” historical reversal of one of the three principles of public service: adaptability “. Instead of this requirement being incumbent on the service, it is up to the user to comply with the administration’s conditions. It is up to him to have this quality, this flexibility, this malleability: “ to get help, to train, to do, to be capable. »

Admittedly, the relationship with public services has become essential for many citizens. And maybe even common and easy. Admittedly, the institution recognizes that a notable effort has been made by the State towards the most vulnerable on digital, with a plan including assistance to users and the establishment of ad hoc infrastructures.

The profiles are numerous: there are elderly people, but also those with disabilities. There are protected adults, young people, foreigners, prisoners, but also those living in social insecurity. A figure circulates on digital illiteracy and is eloquent: 13 million individuals would fall into this category. More than one in five French people.

And still: everyone can encounter an incomprehensible blockage when faced with an online form, not being able to reach an agent, failing to solve a problem “Recalls the Defender of Rights, including if on a daily basis it is not difficult most of the time to complete your procedures online. These worries can affect anyone, anytime and anywhere.

The main proposals against the difficulties of digital technology

In short, ” dematerialization must be carried out, not as a break ordered by budgetary constraints or the search for productivity gains, but as a chosen evolution, which is part of a long time “. From this observation, the Defender draws a series of recommendations. Here are the most notable.

  • Put in place a real mechanism for monitoring the compliance of public Internet sites with accessibility rules, accompanied by dissuasive sanctions and an obligation to take into account, in particular in the specifications of public contracts, accessibility during the design or redesign of a site.
  • Offer people deprived of their liberty training in digital tools and support in their administrative procedures.
  • Encourage the development of partnerships between fixed telecommunications operators and public or private social landlords or managers of student housing, boarding houses or emergency accommodation centers, to offer these tenants a connection at a jointly negotiated.
  • Simplify procedures for accessing rights such as the digital safe.
  • Be vigilant when deploying the new digital health space, which aims to collect users’ medical data in the form of a digital health record (prescriptions, examinations, test results, etc.).
  • Train young people in everyday digital skills and facilitate the steps they must take as young adults from a single entry point.
  • Adopt a legislative provision, within the code of relations between users and the administration, imposing the preservation of several methods of access to public services so that no administrative procedure is accessible only by dematerialized means.
  • Make the telephone platforms of all public services (green number) really free and not just the non-surcharge of calls.
  • Improve information for users in order to raise awareness of the free administrative procedures and put an end to the practice of directing users towards a paying private service.
  • Give the possibility to the user to revoke, at any time, his consent to dematerialized exchanges in a definitive or temporary way.
  • Guarantee a deadline for making corrections for all administrative procedures carried out online.
  • Include users in difficulty with digital technology in the development and evaluation of processes for the dematerialization of public services.
  • Group the interface modifications in order to limit the number of them so as not to disturb the users, because repeated interface changes and close in time have an impact on the users (loss of bearings, sometimes renunciation) but also on the accompanying persons who must readapt their accompanying educational tools (updating of tutorials).
  • Develop data sharing and pre-filling of forms between social, national and territorial public services.
  • Develop free WIFI spaces and lead a consultation on a “right to connection” or a “right of access to digital”, involving both internet access providers and vulnerable people. Carry out experiments to determine the best model that would make the Internet accessible to all.

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