“The nation in a smartphone” has already become a reality, people in Ukraine are now joking sometimes. The involuntary self-isolation of millions of people has drastically increased the significance of the Internet and everything that can be done online, from information search and shopping to the handling of business matters or things involving interaction with public authorities.
Among other things, the present pandemic underscores the importance of Ukraine moving toward further and maximal development of electronic governance. It is quite obvious that it can minimize losses of the state and help pursue interests of the society, including (and especially) in times of such unexpected and dangerous crises as what we’re presently witnessing.
Queues or crowds in government institutions, banks and other public places could, surely, only help spread the dangerous virus. Today, the government and businesses are limiting operation of institutions and offices as much as possible, trying to minimize contacts between people. But at the same time, individuals and businesses are suffering where a particular matter cannot be handled remotely.
Therefore, “the nation in a smartphone” is what would have come in very handy today. Ukraine is gradually implementing this concept, and that’s in the interests of the society. A lot has already been done, and the country has gained momentum. Our project, EGOV4Ukraine, funded by the European Union and a number of its member states helps enhance Ukraine’s capability to provide public and administrative services with the minimum participation of humans.
To understand the importance of this process and its probable outcomes in the e-governance area, we can cite an example which is already well known in Ukraine: e-Maliatko complex service.
With just one electronic application, the parents of newborns can register them, receive an identification number and a unique number of file in the unified state demographic register, register a residence address, apply for benefit payments, and so on. To get all that done, they don’t have to visit separately offices of the Justice Ministry, State Migration Service, State Tax Service and Ministry of Social Policy.
Is it necessary to remind how important it is in the present situation? Nevertheless, it is still a huge advantage even in normal conditions.
This complex service is “young” and available in 11 cities today, because it was launched only a few months ago. And we know that presently, difficulties with submitting an application may occur in some of these cities as a result of the threat of coronavirus epidemic, because for the time being, people do not complete the application themselves. But in any event, this is a valuable asset and an indicator of the direction in which to move. It is expected that in the future, applicants will be able to order e-Maliatko service, as well as many other services, themselves via Diia portal from their own smartphone or computer. And the exchange of information between electronic registers of public institutions concerned will be handled by Trembita, a secure data exchange system.
The experience of Estonia proves what can be achieved this way. It can serve, to a certain extent, as a benchmark for Ukraine in development of electronic services, and a close cooperation was established between the two countries in this regard. The aforementioned Trembita system was created on the basis of Estonia’s X-Road. In Estonia, it ensures interaction between 155 public institutions today, and over 500 various organizations and enterprises are also connected to it. The total number of electronic services provided there using this system exceeds 2600! The only things you cannot do online are to get married or divorced and to buy/sell immovable property. The rest you can do from your personal computer.
Obviously, in these conditions it is easier for the society and the state to go through such difficult time as today.
In Ukraine, more than 50 public institutions have signed an agreement on connection to Trembita today. 12 government and 8 local electronic resources have already been connected. Over 2000 transactions are conducted via this system every day.
At the same time, the parliament is presently considering a draft law on public electronic registers – a very important document for making the e-governance system the most efficient. The government (first of all, our partners from the Ministry of Digital Transformation) understands the importance of moving forward – undoubtedly, this understanding and the desires stemming from it will become even stronger after today’s tribulations end. One should also expect that the society will have a greater awareness as well.
In the past, we always argued that electronic public services and e-governance must be developed, because they optimize performance of government institutions, help the government better perform the function of providing services to citizens, and reduce corruption. Today, another important argument can be thrown in: a well-developed e-governance may save health, and perhaps even lives of people.
By Mari Pedak, Academy of Electronic Governance (Estonia), Head of EGOV4Ukraine project by U-LEAD with Europe