Description of the collaboration
The development of electronic solutions for many aspects of daily life has turned the deployment of optical fibre into a crucial matter, including in remote, mountainous and lightly populated territories such as the Région Sud in France. These characteristics make the deployment of optical fibre difficult and economically unprofitable. To address this issue, local authorities set up a collaborative arrangement - SUD THD - a syndicate that aimed at coordinating investments in electronic and communication infrastructures and acting as the single contact point for private actors operating in this territory. In this context, local authorities have notably developed an e-counter aiming at connecting all partners, whether public or private, involved in “Fibre To The Home” installation works. It provides useful information and centralizes the administrative procedures to obtain road and traffic authorizations to carry out the deployment of optical fibre. The initial steps of the development of this e-counter - originally developed by an intercommunal authority and implemented on a limited area - can be considered as a best practice. However, thereafter, the initiative has faced hurdles and partly failed when SUD THD tried to expand the e-counter to a larger territory.
Impact of ICT on collaboration
SUD THD e-counter is an online portal (https://guichet.sud-thd.net/) aiming at connecting private operators and public partners with local authorities to facilitate the administrative processes related to optical fibre installation works. Overall, the main benefit of SUD THD e-counter is to allow all partners to manage the administrative procedures related to fibre deployment in just a few clicks. The e-counter has resulted in a slight acceleration of operations compared to traditional offline requests. According to users, a request takes on average 2 to 3 weeks before full authorization is granted or denied via SUD THD e-counter, against 3 to 4 weeks for a traditional process. Requests are sometimes processed in only a few hours or days.
Impact of collaboration on efficiency
The collaborative process through SUD THD e-counter works as follows. It starts with a private operator or a public institution’s subcontractor, which is in charge of the optical fibre installation works, wanting to deploy the fibre in a given area. The operator connects to the portal and fills in a form to request the road and traffic authorizations that are necessary to carry out building works. The operator may select on a map the area on which it wants to deploy the fibre. The SUD THD syndicate gets the notification by e-mail and informs the competent authorities, whether a municipality, the departement, depending on which subnational government is responsible for the streets or roads concerned. Upon receipt of a notifying e-mail, the competent authority examines the request and delivers the road and traffic authorizations where appropriate.
The online portal facilitates the circulation of information among the collaboration partners, namely the different local authorities. Also, it makes it easier for all local authorities to trace back which operators were in charge of carrying out works. As the deployment of optical fibre often involves subcontracting between different companies, SUD THD e-counter makes it easier for local authorities to examine citizens’ complaints, which are mostly related to roads being left in a poor condition after roadworks. In such instances, local authorities update the telecommunication companies so that they avoid sub-contracting with these guilty companies. For the telecommunication companies and their sub-contractors, SUD THD e-counter provides a “one-stop shop” to introduce requests concerning a given area, regardless of which local authority is in charge (municipality, or departement). Moreover, the e-counter provides up-to-date information at all times about the status of each request.
Impact of collaboration on red tape
SUD THD e-counter provides an administrative tool that is consistent for all local authorities that decide to use it. The e-counter impacts on the reduction of red tape by guaranteeing the integrity of the information circulating through the online tool. Moreover, through the process described above, the e-counter standardizes administrative procedures and thus contributes to mitigating the administrative burden borne by private operators. When addressing demands to any local authority using the SUD THD e-counter, private operators do not have to learn, use, and adapt to different administrative processes to obtain road and traffic authorizations. Moreover, the updated version of the SUD THD e-counter should allow to further reduce the administrative procedures of local authorities using it.
Implications and lessons learned
Overall, SUD THD e-counter brought different benefits. It allows the exchange of information and the follow-up of the entire process between different local authorities (municipalities, or departement) and between different departments within each local authority (the urban planning department, the public works directorate, and the digital department). The platform helps to solve problems the authorities are facing in other areas such as sanitation and water management. The platform ensures a better follow-up of the works carried out on the ground and allows to trace back and monitor (notably with maps and up-to-date plans) the operations of private companies and their sub-contractors. It has been instrumental in delivering a more efficient planning of road restoration works. Moreover, the e-counter also facilitates the planning of fibre deployment by providing to private operators and public authorities a bird-eye view of the situation. Finally, SUD THD e-counter could be described as a solution that increases the quality and efficiency of the services delivered, alongside the reduction of red tape resulting from the standardization, speeding-up and digitalization of administrative procedures.
You can read the full case study here.
To read more about this research, see D9.1 – A Review of Efficiency and Red Tape in Public Sector Collaborations report.
The SUD THD website (in French). Available here.
The web page about SUD THD e-counter (in French). Available here.
About the Authors
Samuel Defacqz, ISPOLE, University of Louvain