Ukraine without certificates: how to create European e-governance system?

Author – Mari Pedak, Team Leader of the U-LEAD support project EGOV4UKRAINE, e-Governance Academy, Estonia.

For citizens of Ukraine, it is very important to get high-quality services from the government. This is one of the most important components of the European civil space, which Ukraine is aiming for.

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Mari Pedak

My country – Estonia – is one of the most advanced in the world regarding e-government. The advantages of this are more than obvious both for citizens and for the state. For example, we have calculated that each use of digital signature saves 20 minutes of time for the person. During the year, it “runs up” to a whole working week and moneywise the digital signature creates a savings of 2% of GDP for the entire country. It is as much as we spend on defense.

Ukraine should also move away from the fact that to get any service people have to collect a lot of references in different structures and spend time in queues. It should be like this: a person transmits the data to the state, and then the state has to collect the necessary information by itself using available system and database. Eventually, Ukrainian citizens should be able to receive public services without visiting authorities – only with the help of a computer and the Internet.

In Estonia, the system of electronic services is recognized as the best in the world. Its “Heart” is a data exchange system called X-Road implemented in 2001. In 2002, we launched the identification card – it allows people to use the system, having a computer and the Internet.

In order for all of this to become a reality in Ukraine, our project EGOV4UKRAINE is moving into the practical stage now. It is part of a wider project U-LEAD, aimed at the development of decentralization in Ukraine. The project’s budget is about 5.5 million Euros, which is jointly provided by the European Commission, Sweden, and Estonia. Our partner is the State Agency for e-government of Ukraine.

What and why should we do? It should be understood that for the successful operation of such a system four components are required. The first one is sufficient public access to the Internet. There is a problem here – everything is going well only in Kyiv and in big cities. Therefore, an alternative option today is the development and improvement of Administrative Services Centers – ASCs. In Estonia, we skipped this stage; however, in many countries (for example in Georgia) such centers successfully operate.

The second component is the availability of databases, which are correct and well protected. Solving this problem is the most important for the system startup, and it is an immense and in-depth job. In Ukraine, there are a lot of databases, some of them are duplicated. But only one agency or institution should be responsible for certain data.

The third component is the identification system. That is, the system has to know exactly who is sitting in front of the computer. I contemplate everything will be fine with this component soon. The Migration Service, the Ministry of Justice and the Agency for e-government are seriously working on it.

Finally, the fourth component is interoperability system whereby the necessary data could be transferred from the database holders (i.e. various departments) to the customers safely, quickly and automatically. And vice versa.

This is precisely the system we will develop within the framework of our project.

Estonia e-governance

This system is the heart of the e-government, allowing data to move from the bases to the consumers and between the databases. Until early May, we have held a tender for the system engineering, which was won by the Estonian-Ukrainian consortium. Hopefully, it will be created by the end of the year.

By the way, the system does not have a name yet like in Estonia or some other countries. There are several options, but they just won’t do. It is very important to create a loud and easy to remember name for the system.

Perhaps the readers have ideas regarding the name – we will be happy to consider them.

Another objective of our project is to strengthen the ASCs readiness to work with the system. It is not coincidental that the project is an addition to the project U-LEAD aimed at decentralization – as people seek services locally.

Therefore, ASCs should have access to the central databases and this will provide the “heart” of the system we are working on.

At the same time, we are going to train about 600 ASCs to work with the system. Within the framework of the project, soon there will be another tender to determine the performer of these works. In the second component of the U-Lead, our Swedish partners are involved in the development of ASCs in general; our part in this cooperation is the development of IT systems for the centers.

It is important to understand some key points for system implementation in Ukraine.

The technical system of electronic services, that is the IT-part – is only 20% of the cases. The remaining 80% – is a process control, organization, and training. Fortunately, in Ukraine, there is a political will and desire to implement the e-governance. It was testified by our previous four pilot projects, implemented in a number of Ukrainian central administrations and municipalities.

An important task and big challenge are re-engineering of the services – that is their transformation from traditional to electronic.

The key issue for the entire system is the security of transmitted data. Therefore, it will be encrypted – so, even if theoretically anyone could intercept it, they won’t be able to read it.

Furthermore, the Western encryption system is commonly used all over the world, but Ukraine has its own standards for cryptography. Therefore, from Estonia, we take the idea of ​​security system creation and will use the Ukrainian cryptography – for everything to be under control of Ukrainian specialists.

The system itself will be decentralized and fragmented. This means that selected data will be stored in different databases of different owners – so there is virtually no possibility to “kill” the entire system.

Few are aware that the first cyber war was in 2007 against Estonia – and we withstood.

It is possible to attack some elements and damage them, but the system remains intact. For Ukraine, it is of utmost important now.

It should be stressed that – we do not give Ukraine the final product. We do not bring and put on the table some black box, ready to work. We provide know-how and together with Ukrainian IT specialists develop it and customize to the needs of Ukraine.

Our project has been planned for four years. The first two years will be dedicated to the system implementation; the second phase will be focused on its development, staff training and dissemination of information on the use of the system by citizens.

As a result, we expect that Ukraine will reach European level of e-government by the end.

Background information:

EGOV4UKRAINE project is part of Ukraine’s decentralisation programme for more transparent and accountable governance and supports activities of the European Union financed U-LEAD Programme: Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Programme.

The project will improve the public service delivery in the Ukrainian local governments by developing and implementing comprehensive and efficient ICT architecture, information systems and administrative services.

The e-Governance Academy is an Estonian consultancy organisation and think tank, founded to create and transfer knowledge and best practice on e-governance, e-democracy, cybersecurity and open information societies. Since 2002, the academy has trained more than 3000 officials from over 60 countries and has led or participated in more than 60 international development projects at the national, local and organisational levels.

For more information, please, contact: Mari Pedak, team Leader of the U-LEAD support project EGOV4UKRAINE, e-Governance Academy, by phone +38 063 164 3550, or e-mail: mari.pedak@ega.ee

We are grateful to the Evropeiska pravda for cooperation in publishing this material. (The article was published on May 23, 2017).

Photo credit: The e-Governance Academye-Estonia.com