From the Basics Up – How to Build Good ICT in Government
04 Apr 2016
By Blogging Consultant James Brindley
When Latvian ICT expert Andrey Kuznetsov presented at a national seminar hosted by UNDP’s ‘E-Government Promotion for Improved Public Service Delivery’ project and its partners in December 2015, the message was simple – the strength of an ICT-based e-governance system is only as solid as the institutions it’s built on.
Institutional reform is a pre-requisite of e-governance – it is a foundation that needs to be built before ICT is introduced. “Only then can follow the implementation of any ICT solution,” Mr. Kuznetsov said to UNDP Uzbekistan, after completing his mission to Uzbekistan. “An attempt to 'push' old paper-based technology and approaches into an ICT system can never improve services, but in most cases makes situation even worse than without automation at all.”
Good ICT with the Back Office to Match
Back when e-governance was a new idea being introduced in Uzbekistan, systems at the time relied extensively on written paperwork which made implementing public services a time-intensive process, and limited the government’s ability to act as a service provider. Considerable progress has been made from that point, with ICT systems having been introduced into courts, business, governance, and most significantly through the medium of the nation’s first Open Data website.
These initiatives have received strong support from government partners, and have played instrumental roles in helping Uzbekistan achieve the MDGs. As a new development assistance framework comes into play and the SDG era arrives, the emphasis lies on making pilot initiatives a national standard. This itself is an entirely new challenge, one requiring good practices to already be in place.
Mr. Kuznetsov considers institutional reform to have multiple benefits, not only as a framework for ICT, but also as a means of cutting red tape and smoothing out how government operates. For instance, financial reforms can help reduce budgetary expenses and limit the negative impacts of the global economic slowdown, while making doing business simpler. This can make Uzbekistan a better investment option.
“Both national businesses and foreign investors are sensitive to the transparency and consistency of regulation, administrative burdens, and simplicity and accessibility of public services, as well as an excessive share of unclear personal decision making procedures that feed human mistakes, and corruption,” Mr. Kuznetsov said.
The broader impacts of institutional reform – reducing micro-managing, keeping information channels open and reducing reliance on limited resources – are all good for government, and make up a strong bedrock for effective ICT application.
A Competent Centre
While Uzbekistan may require on-going institutional reform, the good news is that government partners have shown their dedication to making ICT part of how they operate on a day-to-day basis. This has been partially achieved through the establishment of a dedicated and incorporated e-Government Development Centre.
“While every system and every organization usually resists changes and reforms, especially those pushed from the outside, the Uzbek e-Government Centre has managed to avoid contradiction and conflicts with other state agencies.” Mr. Kuznetsov said. “It works to form an image of the “competence centre” for all involved state institutions."
The success of the e-Government Development Centre has demonstrated the Uzbekistan Government’s willingness to make ICT the norm. It maintains a highly-qualified group of experts, who are simultaneously training their counterparts from other government departments, and have helped make the centre an information resource for the entire government. Most importantly, though, the centre serves as a catalyst for implementing reforms in the e-governance area, and one that has been effectively incorporated into the existing system.
Strategy for Scaling Up
While seeds of institutional reform are in place, such as the e-governance centre, a strategy is needed to turn it into a national trend. An important step, as Mr. Kuznetsov explains, is to create a project roadmap highlighting main stages and establishing a long-term strategy. It should be agreed on by stakeholders, and combined with a loyal project team, will help encourage success.
It was particularly suggested that project stages should include business process re-engineering, inter-agency process optimization, removal of unneeded ‘public services’, improvement of legislation and internal agency regulations, and training for agency staff. It would also be applicable to create a two-way complaints system, designed to establish dialogue and exchanges between government agencies and the broader public.
These steps are complex and potentially difficult, but with continued international support and national enthusiasm, they will be within reach.
Mr. Andrey Kuznetsov is a business consultant and the director at Latvian Simourg LTD. Established in 2003, this IT company works firstly as a business consultancy conducting seminars and trainings, while it also develops and implements the multipurpose business process management system SimBASE.
UNDP Uzbekistan has worked tirelessly through the MDG era to establish better e-governance practice in Uzbekistan. The work has ranged from setting up strong online public services, to developing the Business Process Re-Engineering Methodology as a means of making government institutions run more effectively. It has also organized open data consultations and workshops to enhance government transparency, and has invited experts like Mr. Kuznetsov to present best international practices in the field. Visit the project webpage here to learn more.