Israel’s Attorney General Guideline to Advance Transition to Digital Services in Government Ministries
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has published a new guideline on the transition to digital services. Addressed to the legal counsels of various government ministries, the guideline intends to assist and support such ministries in the transition from the paper world to the digital world. In addition, the guideline aims to establish arrangements for government and public digital services, such as digital signature, use of emails for public services, remote identification, and more.
The guideline, which focuses on the legal aspects of digital arrangements, covers government ministries, agencies, and other departments of the State. It reflects a policy expressed in a line of government resolutions, with the intention to encourage development and efficiency, as well as to improve services to the public while protecting public interest.
One of the most important statements in the guideline is how to interpret existing laws in light of digitization trends. As such, the guideline encourages legal counsels to interpret laws broadly and to assume the law allows the existence of a digital arrangement. In other words, if the legislation includes no indication negating the possibility of taking an action in a digital manner, then there is room to conduct it digitally. In the case of a law that requires amendment in order to implement a digital arrangement, it is recommended to draft the law with a high level of abstraction and that it be technology-neutral. This way it will remain applicable as the technology advances and also stays up-to-date.
The guideline is significant as it may impact the intersection between the private market and government institutions even in the context of receiving documents electronically and digitally. One can also use this guideline as an interpretation tool when the question arises as to the admissibility of electronic documents.
How It Works
With regard to implementation in government offices, the document details a series of rules for the establishment of a digital arrangement.
- Fitting the arrangement to its purposes. For example, an arrangement involving a digital prescription signed by a physician should accomplish, inter alia, the following goals: identifying the signing physician and the physician’s consent to sign the prescription, assurance there was no alteration to the prescription after its signing, and assurance there cannot be repeated use of the same prescription. Failing to achieve these goals may compromise public health in cases of forgery, overdosing, or drug dealing, and may even cause economic harm to HMOs in cases of subsidies.
- Efficiency, simplicity, and applicability.
- Fairness of the arrangement in its suitability to the population it is designed to cover. For instance, the authority must consider the burden placed on the citizen, and the reasonability of establishing the digital channel as a sole channel. It must also properly address those without the skills or means to use digital channels, and provide incentives for citizens to join the digital arrangement. This is one of the greatest challenges posed by digital arrangements, which can discriminate against populations with limited access to technology, who are also considerable users of governmental services.
- Rules for setting presumptions as to receipt (such as regarding the service of notices of fines). To the extent there is a decision to establish a presumption regarding receipt at a digital address, it must be rebuttable, and it must guarantee with a high level of certainty receipt of the notice. Among others things, it is recommended the digital address to which the notice is sent be one regularly used by the addressee. Measures should also be taken to ensure the process maintains the completeness and integrity of the notice, preventing its alteration, disruption, or loss.
As mentioned above, this is an important guideline that ought to ease the bureaucratic burden of government operation as well as influence the interpretation of existing legislation. We can only hope for its implementation.
Our regulation team is at your service for any questions you may have. For more information please click here.