Christian Rupp, spokesperson of the Federal Platform “Digital Austria”: Austria replaced paper documents with digital
Mr. Christian Rupp is a spokesperson of the Federal Platform “Digital Austria” and coordinator of the initiative “SME Digital” at the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. He was one of the speakers at the “Macedonia 2025” Summit, that was held in Skopje from 7-9th of November, whereas he shared his experience in the field of digitalization.
Mr. Rupp, what exactly is the profile of “SME Digital”?
-We are trying to help our members to understand what digitalization means for their business and how can they do the first steps in the digitalization process. We are not talking only about industry. We are talking about small and medium sized enterprises in the craft industry, for example, hairdressers, carpenters. It is really, let’s say, innovative for the small companies to understand how can 3d printer help, for example or what is cloud computing. At the end, what is artificial intelligence and how can these technologies provide better services. This is also useful for our government and public administration because all these technologies are changing and e-government is definitely a symbol for modern country how to provide better services to the Government, for the citizens and entrepreneurs.
Can you explain the situation in Austria compared to the situation in Macedonia, since here, the stamp is still a valid proof that you have an original document?
That is the magic triangle of digitalization-what is technologically possible; what is legally allowed and if there is a political will. For example, it’s technically no problem to sign a paper electronically, to have electronic stamp, whatever you need. Is it legally allowed? In the EU we have a regulation so that digitalized signatures have to be accepted by the public administration. In Austria we have started 2001 with the electronic signatures and in 2004 we had first E-government law in Europe. This law allows for the hand written signature to be equal to the electronic signature and every public administration office has to sign their paper electronically so they have to have electronic stamp, they have to have electronic signature and if the customer wants, they can have electronic delivery of these official papers as well. So, according to this Law, it is the right of the citizen to have an electronic communication with the public administration.
So, the electronic papers are valid to the public institutions?
-The original document is the electronic one. There is no paper any more.
Knowing the Macedonian circumstances, do you think that this process should start from the public institutions and then to be transferred into the private sector or parallel as a process?
-The technology is already here. There is one company in Macedonia who is providing electronic signatures so I think it can start now in both ways, in public administration and in business, but still it needs the law to be legally allowed to use this kind of opportunities. For example, to be legally allowed to sign a contract electronically, to be legally allowed to sign an invoice electronically. Also, in Austria, we have also the law if you have a contract with a federal ministry, you are not allowed to send a paper invoice, but you have to send electronic invoice, and if you part of procurement process, you have to do it electronically, we are not accepting paper any more. This is how your government can force companies to do it electronically, but also you have to force public administration so that they are accepting electronic signatures. You have to train them for this and to have the opportunity. You can prove the electronic signature also on a paper. And this is something what has to be implemented in Macedonia. This is already a regulation of the European commission so it is automatically a law of all European countries in the European Union.