We find the topic of this round-table to be of particular importance for Uzbekistan’s sustainable development for several reasons.
First, e-Governance is an effective instrument for reforming all aspects of public administration. Smart application of digital tools can make the government more efficient, responsive and people oriented.
Second, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 crisis, high quality and resilient digital solutions are critical to ensure effective service delivery and remote interaction of citizens and businesses with government.
Last but not least, digital technologies help make the government open and transparent, creating better opportunities for public oversight and fight against corruption, which in turn improves the country’s reputation and investment climate.
In this context, it is commendable to see progressive improvements in the digital sector of Uzbekistan over the past several years.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, 2020 was announced as the Year for Development of Science, Education and Digital Economy in Uzbekistan.
The government has launched an ambitious digitalization agenda, including institutional measures to streamline digital governance, measures to expand the digital economy, and adopting a comprehensive Digital Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy.
Digitalization is seen as one of the 8 development priorities for Uzbekistan in the post-COVID period. Many essential public services are being converted to digital format and new e-participation tools created.
Last month, the government unveiled plans for accelerated adoption of artificial intelligence technologies in Uzbekistan.
UNDP is also undergoing a digital transformation to become a more effective organization and accelerate achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
At global and regional levels we have accumulated vast expertise and knowledge in designing, piloting and scaling digital innovations to tackle development challenges and support national governments in their digital journeys.
UNDP has been supporting the Government of Uzbekistan to advance ICT and e-governance since 2002 by combining a deep understanding of the local context with best international practices.
More specifically, we worked on regulatory and institutional framework for e-governance, advocated the benefits of platform approach and user centric service delivery, promoted the concepts of open data and e-participation for accountability and transparency of the government.
One of the outcomes of this collaboration was a significant improvement in Uzbekistan’s e-government index in 2016, when the country’s rank rose from 100 to 80.
We have been dedicating big resources to building digital capacities of national partners through numerous knowledge sharing events engaging best global minds, as well as supporting the digital ecosystem through contests, hackathons and challenges on open data, startups, women in IT and others.
Currently, our digital engagement with the government is focused on:
improving public service delivery in rural areas through one-stop shops;
enhancing capacities for digital economic diplomacy;
using digital solutions to expand people’s access to justice;
digitalization of services for the vulnerable population in mahallas.
In the coming weeks, jointly with the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications we are planning to conduct a Digital Readiness Assessment of Uzbekistan. It is a new tool from the UNDP’s Chief Digital Office aimed at analyzing the state of the country's digitalization and finding an optimal path to its inclusive digital transformation. My colleague Mark will share more details about this initiative later today.
Improvement of Uzbekistan’s digital governance is a complex and challenging task, especially in the international perspective, when the country’s progress is benchmarked against similar efforts of other governments.
The COVID crisis has also exacerbated many issues that Uzbekistan still faces in its digital journey. These range from limited Internet access, quality and reach of mobile services, especially in regions to improving digital skills of civil servants and people in general.
There has been a significant increase in internet capacity and speed, the cost of obtaining services has fallen, but by regional and international benchmarks Uzbekistan is still lagging, which points to the importance of reforming the telecommunications sector. Much work is still needed on integrating the digital ecosystem and making the online services user-focused.
All of these factors affect the country’s e-government indicators and we welcome the government’s initiative to start a dialogue on these issues.
We hope that today’s round-table will kick off a productive discussion and help us to:
Better understand the key challenges of digitalization in Uzbekistan and how it is perceived by the international community;
Develop recommendations on how to enhance and accelerate inclusive digital transformation;
And agree on a mechanism for continued regular dialogue on this topic;
UNDP stands ready to further support the government in its digital development based on our expertise, networks and fresh insights on digital innovations.
Thank you very much for your attention!