«The development and implementation of innovations in public administration remains the prerogative of the government; citizens, non-governmental organizations and other actors are not sufficiently involved in this process»,- mentioned political economist Bakhrom Radjabov, in his article for CABAR.asia.
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At the center for the provision of public services. Photo: teletype.in
In Uzbekistan, 2018 was declared as the year of entrepreneurship and support of innovative ideas and technologies, thereby launching the introduction of innovations in all spheres of the economy and society, became as a priority for the government. Administrative reform of the general government sector, aimed at enhancing the role and status of public servants, as well as introducing innovations in public service and administration, were identified as priorities for economic, political and civil development. Accordingly, Uzbekistan began to introduce “best practices” of management, including through the introduction of new, innovative methods of providing public services.
During previous years, Uzbekistan has already taken several steps in this direction. Of these, electronic public services, public service centers, public (including online) receptions of the president and prime minister.
However, despite these efforts, numerous problems still impede the dynamic development of the public sector in terms of accessibility of public services. This sector is managed in the old way, and changes are introduced quite slowly. The article discusses recent changes in public policy and the introduction of innovations in the public sector, as part of the development strategy of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021.
New Government Initiatives: Are the Innovations Real?
The government of Uzbekistan is gradually introducing e-government services for citizens. One of the main tools of e-government is the interactive public service portal, which provides 308 services from 2,437 government organizations. Also, there is a system of “one window” centers on the portal through which, in the beginning, the state began to provide 16 services for entrepreneurs, and now public services are available for all citizens through the same platform. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan launched a portal to discuss legislative acts, increasing the level of consultation with citizens. Another example is the utilities and housing portal. The portal was created in order to exchange information between the owners of private apartments (houses) and government agencies more efficiently regarding the provision of housing and construction services, as well as housing legislation.
Nevertheless, according to UNDP, the participation of the public and citizens in government decision-making in Uzbekistan remains between the second (consultancy) and third (involvement) levels, in accordance with the developed methodology of the International Association for Public Participation. UNDP encourages citizens and the government to collaborate and to further enable citizens to participate in government decision-making process. This will allow Uzbekistan to rise in the index of activity of citizens to the fourth (cooperation) and fifth (empowerment) levels.
To enable citizens to participate in government decisions, data on government activities and public services should be available. In this regard, although the open data portal of Uzbekistan is functioning, it does not contain enough data, and the available data is not updated in a timely manner. Moreover, specific data on the activities of various government agencies are still difficult to obtain.
State initiatives in the field of public administration
- Agency for the provision of public services under the Ministry of Justice and public service centers
The new state institution – the Agency for the provision of public services – was created on the basis of the presidential decree “On the reform of the national system for the provision of public services.” The motto of the agency is “It is not people who should serve the government, but government institutions should serve the people.” The goal of the agency is to expand the services of “one window” centers. Accordingly, public service centers were attached to the president’s public receptions in each city and region. Altogether, 58 government services began to be provided at these centers, including permits for certain construction works, households’ access to water and electricity, and various patents (license) and archival documents. Thus, the government seeks to reinforce the principle “documents are moving, not people”.
The Agency for the provision of public services has already identified the following problems associated with the operation of centers for the provision of public services:
- Public service centers do not have access to high-speed Internet.
- Low level of interagency integration.
- Lack of electronic archives (many documents are in paper form).
- State bodies providing services and centers of state services do not have the necessary equipment (computers and technical devices) to provide innovative services.
- Obtaining a license remains a complex process, which usually leads to violations.
- The low level of IT literacy of people does not allow them to receive online services.
All the above-mentioned problems are technical or due to a lack of sufficient capacity in ICT, and they do not solve the whole problem with the quality of public services. According to UNDP analysis, the problem is in a very narrow definition of what constitutes a “public service” in Uzbekistan. This definition should relate to a wider scope – administrative reform in the country. In fact, UNDP notes that the system of public services in Uzbekistan has not yet undergone significant changes.
UNDP notes that Uzbekistan is the only country in Central Asia that has not reformed its civil service and does not yet have a law on public service. On September 8, 2017, the President of Uzbekistan approved the Concept of Administrative Reform in Uzbekistan, according to which the functions of more than 100 state institutions should be reviewed. However, according to the economist and development expert Yuli Yusupov, first of all, it is necessary to reform the civil service on a high level, and then carry out administrative reform.
Another problem with public services, which has not yet been seriously discussed, is that the list of services provided by the government is not complete. In other words, it is not clear how many services the government provides to citizens. This question should be answered even before the attempts to digitize these services. In addition, there is no complete list of what services are currently provided by the government but should be excluded. In many cases, citizens receive identical services from other organizations, where many of them can be canceled or delegated to a single body. The launch of public service centers began this process, but sometimes it is still easier and faster to get the service through the relevant government agency, rather than through the centers.
- Online and offline examples of public services
The online reception rooms of the President of Uzbekistan began to function on February 1, 2018. This service was a logical continuation of the online reception of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as Prime Minister and then as acting president of Uzbekistan. The service was first launched on September 24, 2016 on the website: pm.gov.uz. After the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as President, “pm” began to mean “President Murojaat” (Address to the President). The idea of online reception was that citizens could:
- Get legal advice.
- Contact the heads of government agencies.
- Get information about the time of reception of citizens.
Users can also indicate the local community (mahalla) where they encountered a problem. This should, by design, help to quickly solve the problem, and also facilitate the collection of data for analyzing problems and finding short-term and long-term solutions to these issues. In addition to online receptions, local receptions also began to be introduced to effectively control and solve citizens’ problems. The presidential decree on these receptions was published on January 17, 2019. In the first two years of Mirziyoyev’s presidency, more than 2.5 million requests were sent regarding 1.1 million various problems which were not resolved by local authorities.
In order to cover the problems and complaints of people more widely, presidential administration employees began to visit regions of the country in order to identify the most acute problems on the spot. In addition, it was decided that the Khudud (Territory) information system would be integrated with online receptions. At first, the online reception tool was used quite effectively to establish a dialogue with citizens and allowed them to overcome bureaucratic barriers in solving problems. However, recently there have been cases of abuse of this tool by citizens, for example, the use of online receptions to solve minor problems, and even turning it into a way of unfounded complaints. Most of the criticism for this service is related to the fact that it does not offer a systematic solution to problems, but only considers their consequences.
A number of criticisms also apply to cases where complaints filed through this online service have been repeatedly sent to government organizations that have previously failed to deal with the problem effectively. This practice caused understandable disappointment from users of public services. In fact, it is still unclear to what extent how many requests of citizens were duly satisfied. The number of citizens’ appeals is publicly available information, but this information does not show the extent to which the requests were satisfied. There is no guarantee that the agencies responsible for resolving the issue raised by the citizen handle requests effectively. In order to be able to control the process, such data on all incoming requests should be available to the public. This would make public services a more effective and efficient tool and increase citizens’ confidence in these services.
- Prime Minister’s Receptions
The government of Uzbekistan has recently set up Prime Minister’s reception in order to deal with the issues of entrepreneurs. The main goals of creating these receptions were to protect the rights and interests of entrepreneurs and solve their issues in overcoming bureaucratic barriers (including issues related to land use, loans, obtaining court permits). The government also plans to monitor and analyze systemic problems that impede the development of entrepreneurship, attracting foreign investment and improving legislation through reception rooms. An online portal business.gov.uz has been created for this purpose. However, it is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of this service, since it has not yet begun to work fully.
2020 – Year of digital technology; civil service development is a priority
After the adoption of the Concept of Administrative Reform in Uzbekistan, for some time, there were no visible shifts. The situation has begun to change somewhat recently. A state adviser to the president on public administration and work with representative bodies was appointed. He is the former Minister of Employment and Labor Relations Sherzod Kudbiev. The following priorities were set by the President of Uzbekistan in a recent Address to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020, where, among other issues, special attention was paid to issues of government and the digitalization of the economy. At the junction of these two areas, in theory, there should be innovation in the public sector. However, for now, these designated goals have yet to be achieved. In the meantime, the speed of the Internet in the country is causing complaints, and despite the previously announced orientation target, users did not feel increase in speed of the Internet. So far, there are no visible changes in the civil services in terms of the influx of personnel, the creation of a system of their competitive selection and attraction to the civil service. There is no statutory status of a civil servant yet, although work is ongoing in this area.
Conclusion and recommendations
Since 2017, innovation has become a priority at the government and presidential levels in Uzbekistan. A series of institutional changes and legal amendments were developed and introduced, for example, the Concept of innovative development of Uzbekistan. In the general government sector, changes are also ongoing. Online and offline services, including receptions of the president, and then the Prime Minister, aimed at improving the quality of public services. Although it was revealed that they solve a number of problems raised by citizens, systemic solutions have not yet been achieved. New innovation initiatives in public administration were better institutionalized and scaled up across the country due to government support. However, the development and implementation of innovations in public administration remains the prerogative of the government; citizens, non-governmental organizations and other actors are not sufficiently involved in this process.
Along with larger systemic reforms, the following steps to introduce innovation in public administration should be undertaken:
1) Data on the activities of state bodies at the national and local levels, as well as the services they provide, should be available to the public and citizens. Accordingly, the law “On Open Data” should be developed and adopted.
2) Innovative solutions in the field of public administration generated by citizens should be developed. Greater participation by civil society in decision-making should be encouraged. More civic innovation in public administration should be supported.
3) To promote innovation in public administration, various actors (private, non-governmental, social enterprises) should be involved in the process of providing services for citizens. Competitively selected public managers should be hired. In other words, public service needs to be improved.
4) To improve public services: (1) the law “On Public Service” is required; (2) amendments to the Law on Electronic Government should be introduced in order to expand the range of government services, in addition to issues of simple digitization.
5) Finally, ICT literacy efforts by government service providers and consumers of these services should continue. Technical and infrastructural problems in public service, already identified by the government, must be resolved.
This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.
 See my.gov.uz
 Sherzodhodzha Khabibullakhuzhayevich Khabibullaev, “Development of e-government in Uzbekistan”, DRussia.ru, March 13, 2017, http://d-russia.ru/razvitie-elektronnogo-pravitelstva-v-uzbekistane.html.
 “IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum,” 2014, Accessed July 17, 2019,
 See https://egovernment.uz/ru/press_center/publication/razvitie-elektronnykh-gosudarstvennykh-uslug/ [currently unavailable].
 “What will change in the provision of public services?” Kun.uz, April 13, 2018,
 “What hinders the effective work of Mirziyoyev’s public receptions?” Sputnik.uz, May 4, 2017, https://uz.sputniknews.ru/society/20170504/5338882/Chto-meshaet-rabote-priemnyh.html.
 “In 2018, the Public Services Center will appear at public receptions” UzReport, December 13, 2017, https://www.uzreport.news/society/v-2018-godu-pri-narodnih-priemnih-poyavyatsya-tsentri-gosuslug