Research Studies

Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2017

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is a composite index that summarizes relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU member states in digital competitiveness. Several indicators focus on the progress of eGovernment in EU member states. This index proves the importance of the once-only principle in reducing the administrative burden for citizens but also shows the discrepancy between the progress of eGovernment tools in member states.

EU-wide digital Once-Only Principle for citizens and businesses - Policy options and their impacts (2017)

This report analyzes the policy options of the once-only principle (OOP) and their impacts in the EU. It specifically explores the barriers, consequences and gaps affecting an EU-wide digital OOP. They propose a directive pertaining to data provided by citizens and businesses and setting up a task force with Member states to establish a sound framework for facilitating OOP initiatives. Additionally they suggest a framework for business OOP to provide access to base registers and more.

Europe's Digital Progress Report 2017

The EDPR report combines the quantitative evidence from DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index) with country-specific policy insights, in order to keep track of the progress made in terms of digitalization by each Member State and providing an important feedback loop for policy-making at EU level.

Study on eGovernment and the reduction of administrative burden (2014)

This study was foreseen under the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015. It focuses on the use of eGovernment tools in order to attain the reduction of administrative burden (ABR). The study specifically identifies the principle of the once-only registration of relevant data as a very important tool to reduce the administrative burden. Public administration offices take action to internally share the standard information citizens and businesses have provided only once, so as to reduce ABR.

Legal Basis

Digital Single Market regulation proposal

The digital single market strategy is one of ten priorities set out by the EU Commission for 2015-19. The digital single market strategy is made up of three policy areas: Better access for consumers and business to online goods, the right environment for digital networks and services, and economy and society. Part of the Single Digital Gateway is the definition for standards and interoperability. It supports an inclusive digital society following the once-only principle. Not only will this simplify administrative processes for citizens but also potentially save around €5 billion per year by 2017.

eGovernment Action Plan (2016-2017)

The eGovernment Action Plan was created in order to advance the modernization of public administrations across the European Union and has led to joint actions on eGovernment. As part of its vision and underlying principles, the once-only principle is proposed in order to for public administration offices to take action if permitted to internally re-use data provided by citizens and businesses, in dues respect of data protection rules, in order to reduce the administrative burden.

eIDAS Regulation (2014)

The Regulation (EU) N°910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS Regulation) adopted on 23 July 2014 provides a predictable regulatory environment to enable secure and seamless electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities. The regulation ensures that people and businesses can use their own national electronic identification schemes (eIDs) to acces public services in other EU countries where eIDs are available. It also allows for the creation of an European internal market for electronic trust services – namely electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamp, electronic delivery service and website authentication – by ensuring that they will work across borders and have the same legal status as traditional paper based processes.

EU data protection reform

On 15 December 2015, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached agreement on the new data protection rules, establishing a modern and harmonized data protection framework across the EU. It is seen as a major step forward in the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy. It strengthens citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age and facilitates business by simplifying rules for companies. This reduces the costly administrative burdens and provides an important legal basis for the facilitation of the once-only principle. Implementation by EU member states has to be completed by May 2018.

European Interoperability Framework

The new European Interoperability Framework (EIF) was adopted in March 2017 by the EU Commission. The framework gives specific guidance on how to set up interoperable digital public services. It will help create an environment where public administrations can collaborate digitally. The framework highlights several recommendations including the provision of a single point of contact in order to hide internal administrative complexity and facilitate users’ access to European public services. It also includes to ask users of European public services to provide data once-only and relevant-only information.

Service Directive ‚Point of Single Contact‘ (PSC)

The Service Directive ‘Points of Single Contact’ was set up within the EU so that service providers can easily complete formalities online through one single point of access. Companies for example, whether foreign or domestic, should have one single access point at the national or European public administration. This supports the idea of the once-only principle as it simplifies administrative processes for businesses to expand and share information across borders.

Single Digital Gateway

This initiative proposed by the EU Commission aims to establish a single digital gateway to provide information, procedure, assistance and problem solving services to companies and EU citizens in order to increase their access to the single market. This is in line with the once-only principle and should provide the basis for the exchange of evidence directly between the competent authorities concerned from different member states, at the request of citizens and businesses.

Large Scale Pilots

e-CODEX (12/2010 – 02/2016)

The e-CODEX project has contributed to improvements of the cross-border access to legal means for citizens and businesses in Europe and facilitated the interoperability between legal authorities within the EU. It has built a general-purpose e-Delivery system and has, in the context of its piloting activities, developed “national connectors” to link the national transport infrastructures to the pan-European layer.

e-CODEX was established under the ICT Policy Support Programme under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).

E-Sens (04/2013 – 03/2017)

A pan-European project to strengthen the EU digital single market and facilitate public services across borders through generic and re-usable technical components. It involved over 100 public and private actors from 22 countries. Its job has been to consolidate and solidify the work done in previous Large Scale Pilots, providing generic IT solutions for cross-border communication which can be applied to any policy domain. e-SENS succeeded in creating a pan-European set of IT building blocks for digital public services that embrace both national and sectorial diversity and facilitate interoperability. The Once-Only Principle Project (TOOP) aims to develop a Generic Federated OOP Architecture based on the building blocks consolidated by e-SENS.

Peppol (05/2008-08/2012)

Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) provides a set of tools and specifications enabling cross-border eProcurement within the EU. It uses the eDelivery Network to connect different eProcurement systems by establishing a set of common business processes and technical standards. This provides an interoperable and secure network connecting all Access Points. PEPPOL is in use in 16 countries in Europe with PEPPOL Authorities placed in 8 countries.

The OpenPEPPOL Association was established on 1st September 2012 after successful completion of the PEPPOL project which saw PEPPOL specifications being implemented in several European countries solving interoperability issues for electronic procurement. OpenPEPPOL is a non-profit international association under Belgian law (Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif – AISBL) and consists of both public sector and private members. The association has assumed full responsibility for the development and maintenance of the PEPPOL specifications, building blocks and its services and implementation across Europe.

SPOCS (07/2009 – 12/2012)

SPOCS– Simple Procedures Online for Cross-border Services– aims at building the second generation Point of Single Contact through the availability of high impact electronic procedures. SPOCS provides seamless electronic procedures by building cross- border solutions based on a country’s existing systems. The Services Directive calls for setting up Points of Single Contact (PSC). The PSCs are acting as intermediaries between service providers and the national public administrations. The goal of these "one-stop shops" is essentially to fulfill the two following functions: information dissemination and case management/processing. SPOCS aimed to build the next generation of online portals Point of Single Contact, through the availability of high impact cross- border electronic procedures.

Main result was the EU SPOCS Starter Kit:

STORK (07/2008 – 03/2015)

epSOS aimed to design, build and evaluate a service infrastructure that demonstrates cross-border interoperability between electronic health record systems in Europe. Its goal was to facilitate seamless healthcare to European citizens in order to improve the quality and safety of healthcare for citizens when travelling to another European country. epSOS focused on developing a practical eHealth framework and ICT infrastructure that enables secure access to patient health information among different European healthcare systems. Through epSOS patients in Europe have the opportunity to use cross-border eHealth services when seeking healthcare in participating epSOS pilot countries.

TOOP - The “Once-Only” Principle Project

The “Once - Only” Principle Project (TOOP) is an initiative of 50 organizations from the EU and Associated Countries to explore and demonstrate the once-only principle on a cross-border scale with the aim to reduce the administrative burden of businesses and public administrations. The project is part of the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 and will contribute towards increasing the efficiency of the Digital Single Market.

Related Programs

Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF) Digital Service Infrastructure (DSI)

To support the Digital Single Market in succeeding, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program is funding a set of generic and reusable Digital Service Infrastructures (DSI), also known as building blocks. The CEF building blocks offer basic capabilities that can be reused in any European project to facilitate the delivery of digital public services across borders and sectors. Currently, there are five building blocks:


eDelivery is a network of nodes for digital communications. It is based on a distributed model where every participant becomes a node using standard transport protocols and security policies. eDelivery helps public administrations to exchange electronic data and documents with other public administrations, businesses and citizens, in an interoperable, secure, reliable and trusted way.


The CEF eID building block is a set of services (including software, documentation, training and support) provided by the European Commission and endorsed by the Member States, which helps public administrations and private Service Providers to extend the use of their online services to citizens from other European countries. This is realised through the mutual recognition of national electronic identification (eID) schemes (including smartcards, mobile and log-in), allowing citizens of one European country to use their national eIDs to securely access online services provided in other European countries. The mutual recognition of eID schemes across Europe is mandated by the eIDAS Regulation.


The eSignature building block helps public administrations and businesses to accelerate the creation and verification of electronic signatures. The deployment of solutions based on this building block in a Member State facilitates the mutual recognition and cross-border interoperability of e-signatures. This means that public administrations and businesses can trust and use e-signatures that are valid and structured in EU-interoperable formats.


Electronic invoicing is the exchange of an electronic invoice document between a supplier and a buyer. An electronic invoice (eInvoice) is an invoice that has been issued, transmitted and received in a structured electronic format which allows for its automatic and electronic processing


eTranslation’s main goal is to help European and national public administrations exchange information across language barriers in the EU, by providing machine translation capabilities that will enable all Digital Service Infrastructures (DSIs) to be multilingual. Public administrations, citizens and businesses in the EU will thus be able to use digital services in the language they choose.

ISA ² (2016-2020)

The ISA² program supports the development of digital solutions that enable public administrations, businesses and citizens in Europe to benefit from interoperable cross-border and cross-sector public services (2016-2020). ISA2 contributes to the development of a more effective, simplified and user-friendly e-administration at the national, regional and local levels of public administration and facilitates interactions between public administrations, citizens and companies.

European Interoperability Timeline:


Joinup is the collaborative platform of ISA2 created by the European Commission which offers several services that aim to help e-Government professionals share their experience with each other. It facilitates the sharing and reuse of IT solutions developed for public administrations.