ICT Bridge between Uzbekistan’s government and citizenry
20 Nov 2015
In April this year, Uzbekistan’s first Open Data Portal was established, as a result of UNDP’s support for the implementation of the ‘Programme on the Development of a National Information and Communication System of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2013-2020’. The actual launch of the website itself was a momentous occasion, but the real tangible impact of the website, is that for the first time in national history a direct channel of information has been formed between the ministries and departments of the Government of Uzbekistan, and the greater public.
It’s true that the website is ground-breaking in its size and breadth – 600 datasets have so far been posted, with a slow but steady trend towards a prominence of gender-segregated data (demographic information distinguishing between genders). The website already has 60,000 visits and more than twice that many downloads, while more and more departments and agencies have uploaded information on to the website. However that’s not the most exciting part aspect of the portal.
What is most exciting, is that the information and communication channel the portal provides is two-way.
ICT development in Uzbekistan
The Open Data Portal is an outcome of a collaborative and dedicated effort to make sure useful and applicable Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Uzbekistan is easy and inexpensive to access.
Its forerunners have focused on making sure public service can be easier accessed by members of the public. Nearly all of the ICT supported by UNDP, with internet portals, One-Stop-Shops and the E-SUD electronic justice systems being just a few examples, have served to break down and simplify services and information exchange, make it easier for the public to connect with their elected representatives (and vis-versa), and speed up processes like business development which are so crucial to the nation’s growth.
A talkback channel
The breadth of information available on the Open Portal is in itself quite impressive – currently the websites statistics regarding demographics, education, health, social services and infrastructure, while inroads are being made into providing information about more taboo subjects including crime rates and statistics. On-going training events have also worked to make sure data is provided in a more easily-accessible way. The other new feature is the creation of ‘data passports’.
“The most important thing is that the data available on the Open Data Portal has to be trustworthy, and that’s where ‘data passports’ come into play,” said Mr. Avazbek Niyazov, senior expert of Uzinfocom Center working in collaboration with UNDP. “At the relevant government agency, somebody has to be responsible for the quality of data. That is why there is a data passport that contains the date of the uploaded data, the name of the person responsible for the information, and their email address.”
“This is a giant step forward, because it allows for a direct route of inquiry about the available information, and opens doors for the data’s greater use in academia, the mass media, and individuals looking for other constructive uses of the information through innovative professionals like IT programmers. The commitment by government officials in making sure the available data is complete and accountable shows their important commitment to greater transparency.”
UNDP has provided support in both improving the quality of available data, and encouraging the pubic in better utilizing the available information. Uzbekistan’s E-gov Development Center has played a major role in this process.
“Together with UNDP we conduct different workshops and trainings for government officials on different levels and on a constant basis – most recently we conducted a workshop for IT specialist of different agencies and ministries, regarding how to data in a way that’s most accessible to the greater public,” the center’s deputy direction Mr. Elyor Rakhmanov said.
“We also conducted a ‘Hackathon’ as part of September’s ICT Week, attended by programmers, developers and other professionals who created interactive applications through the use of the open data. We will continue supporting the participating programmers in further expanding their applications through follow-up monitoring and workshops.”
What happens now?
At the closing day of the ICT Week event in September, during which the Hackathon event was held, the head of UNDP’s good governance unit Ms. Aziza Umarova stated that “E-government is like an iceberg - we only see a small part of it. The role of ICT is 20%, while the remaining 80% is administrative reform.”
The successful establishment of the Open Data Portal is a key technical achievement, but it represents only the tip of the iceberg. The challenge now is to make sure that this important resource is continually maintained and updated, that the greater public are made aware of its existence, and that it is utilized to its fullest extent.
The Open Data Portal and its related initiatives is just one of the many on-going works of the ongoing ‘E-Government Promotion for Improved Public Service Delivery’ project run by UNDP and a range of key national Government and IT partners. Its major successes have included establishing and expanding the my.gov.uz website, building on other available e-services, and assisting in the development of related infrastructure.