The level of e-government’s development in Tajikistan can be judged by the queues behind the registry offices’ doors.
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* This article was prepared as part of the summer internship program for journalists of CABAR.asia analytical platform in Tbilisi (Georgia).
Citizens of the country are waiting in queues, spending precious hours and dozens of somoni to receive 16 documents: birth certificate, change of name and surname, registration and divorce, certificate of presence or absence of marriage registration, death certificate, restoration of missing documents, etc. In Georgia, you can get all these documents online without leaving your home.
What is e-government? Many people, not having enough information about this concept, think that e-government is intended to replace the actual one. This statement is not true. Briefly, this term can be described as follows: e-government works virtually online and is designed to eradicate or at least reduce the bureaucracy of the existing system, and therefore, eliminate corruption in government bodies, speed up the work of government departments, develop trade, etc.
Electronic Government Should Be Created by 2020 in Tajikistan
At the end of 2011, the Concept of Formation of the Electronic Government in the Republic of Tajikistan was adopted. This concept defines the ways and order of e-government formation. The term for the concept implementation ends in 2020. This means that only a year later, e-government in Tajikistan should be formed. How realistic is this?
Muhammadi Ibodulloev, an expert on modern technology, says that e-government has basically three directions: intra- and interdepartmental document circulation; services for legal entities; services for individuals.
“In the first two areas, certain works have already been completed. All public institutions have the ability to perform banking transactions through a single system. The system of planning and implementation of the budget became electronic”, Ibodulloev added.
In his opinion, a lot of work has also been done in the provision of services for legal entities.
“It is convenient for an entrepreneur or a legal entity to fill out tax returns right from their offices. It saves time and energy, helps to avoid disputes and fights with tax officers”, says Muhammadi Ibodulloev.
However, along with this, Ibodulloev asks the question: what has been done to provide e-government services for individuals? All services provided to citizens are of a general nature.
“Government agencies have hotlines and instant messengers, regulations can be obtained through the government agencies’ websites, the national testing center informs applicants on the examinations’ results electronically, pensions and wages are transferred to bank cards, an electronic visa is issued, “Safe City” provides electronic services, etc. But all these services are general, not individual. Practically, there is no individual services. We call it services’ personalization. That is, services are not provided through an individual profile just for one person”, explained Ibodulloev.
While Tajikistan is just trying to implement an e-government project, Georgia, one of the former Soviet Union republics, is placed on the top lines of the UN research results of the e-government development.
Rati Abuladze, founder of the Research Academy of Electronic Administration of Georgia, says that his country is confidently moving along the path of technological development.
“Through online services, citizens can receive a certificate of marriage, birth, divorce, act of adoption, death, certificate of change of name and surname. It should be noted that the state services provided in Georgia online are very extensive and diverse”, says Rati Abuladze.
According to Abuladze, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia created the Register of the Property and the Register of Business and Economic Activity. Also, in this country, a portal for the exchange of electronic services, information and documents is created. Abuladze says that citizens can also get online advisory services.
According to experts, the weak point of Tajikistan’s e-government is precisely the fact that the unified registries of property and citizens have not yet been created.
Tajik expert Muhammadi Ibodulloev says that the work must start with the registry offices. Every citizen must be assigned a single individual number from the birth date.
“This function is partially carried out by the TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) now, but it is imperfect. In practice, a citizen cannot have a TIN until he is 16, and even then, it is not used in all systems. We will certainly return to this issue in a few years, since other countries that have become successful in e-government started with the introduction of a single individual number”, says Muhammadi Ibodulloev.
According to him, the basis for the e-government creation are the housing registry and land registry. Addresses of all private, working, state property should be placed in a single register.
Along with this, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of the Republic of Tajikistan, which is authorized to supervise the transition to e-government, says that a lot of work has been done to create it.
In an official letter, the Ministry reported that fiber-optic cable is installed for the 39 ministries and departments, which contributes to electronic document flow. In addition, the process of restoring the e-government network continues in all government ministries and departments.
The Ministry reports that for easy access to all legal acts, clear and detailed comments on the registering the trade operations, information about the situation on the markets, and the approval of trade turnover from the Ministry of Economic Development, Tajikistan’s trade portal www.tajtrade.tj has been launched. This Ministry also reports on other advances in the financial sector of the country. However, nothing was answered in the Ministry of Economic Development to the question of how could the e-government work against the background of the constant Internet access limitations.
Since 2015, Internet users in Tajikistan periodically complain about restricting of access to certain websites and social networks. Recently, in most cases just the mobile Internet is limited. All of these restrictions complicate Internet access in Tajikistan.
Last year, many Universities’ applicants could not get the information from the National Testing Center on the examinations results for 2-3 days. Later it turned out that they could not log into their personal accounts due to activated VPN on their smartphones. This is a vivid example of how restricting Internet access can become an obstacle to the e-government development.
“The permanent restriction of Internet access in Tajikistan, in general, reduces the citizens’ reliance on e-government”, said Muhammadi Ibodulloev.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.