NETHERLANDS: Focus on collaborative ICT tools in central government


Modern employees need more than just access to email and a network drive in order to work from home. Video conferencing, text messaging, online file sharing – hundreds of applications are available to work remotely with colleagues. However, not all of them are suitable for every kind of work. Some cannot guarantee, for instance, that confidential information will remain confidential. We want to know what ICT applications central government is using to facilitate working from home and what the policy is.

Why are we carrying out this investigation?

The corona crisis has shown that the Netherlands has the infrastructure necessary to work en masse from home. Civil servants and politicians are using many kinds of user-friendly, efficient and productivity-boosting ICT applications and services such as WhatsApp, Skype and WeTransfer. Some of these services, however, are being used outside the usual secure and backed-up workspaces.

The government’s control over the applications and what the providers can do with the data (both file content and personal data) differ per application. This is important for the following reasons:

  • Unauthorised persons can gain a commercial advantage by accessing confidential government communications.
  • Government decision-making must be transparent at all times. This is not possible if messages in the decision-making process are deleted.
  • The government must know where data are stored and who can access them. Otherwise, sensitive data can be sold or fall into the wrong hands.

Even if the government itself does not control the applications, agreements can be made on their safe and correct use. We want to know what agreements have been made and how they are communicated to civil servants and politicians.

What are we going to investigate?

The Netherlands Court of Audit will carry out a focus audit to investigate the collaborative use of ICT tools. Focus audits take a quick but close look at a topical issue. We report only the facts and make no recommendations. This investigation will address three key questions:

  • What ICT tools is central government using for communications and remote working?
  • What is the government’s policy on the use of these tools and how does it communicate its policy?
  • Why are these ICT tools being used and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Planned publication date: October 2020