Foto credit: Christina Morillo from Pexels
The society undergoes an ongoing complex revolution in information and communication technology, which fundamentally transforms the way the economic environment, citizens and public administration authorities (LPAs) operate and interact between them.
Most modern countries accept policies that shift them to e-Government through data sharing and access to electronic information, as a method of improving the services provided to businesses and individuals, thus promoting economic and social development, increasing the efficiency of public administration by implementing information systems, integrating databases and creating their own web services. Nonetheless, the degree and the pace of digitalisation varies in different countries and regions.
Digitalisation means economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Estonia is an example to follow in this regard because it managed to transform the business and public service system by digitalising 99% of the public services. As a result, 98% of citizens have an electronic ID, 99.6% use online banking services, 100% of school and university teaching can be ensured remotely, 98% of prescriptions for medicines are digital, 97% of tax statements are submitted online, 98% of private companies are established online (it lasts about 3 hours), 2,500 electronic services are available to the public on the platform https://www.eesti.ee, the ONLINE voting for the Parliament, LPAs or EU Parliament lasts 3 minutes.
In the case of the Republic of Moldova, the degree of digitalisation is steadily increasing, consumers are familiar with digital solutions and over 75% of the population uses the internet both optical fibre networks and mobile internet: over 98% of the settlements in the country are connected to fixed point of access to optical fibre and over 98% of the settlements are covered with high capacity mobile internet; 4.36 million phones are actively connected (which exceeds the number of the population).
At the same time, the digital public services are not developed sufficiently, the Government of the Republic of Moldova managing to digitalise about 126 services for individuals and businesses, out of 580 public services that exist. Thus, it is necessary to take measures to optimise the activity of one-stop-shops, to ensure the digital inclusion of beneficiaries at local level, to increase the level of electronic service adoption and to ensure their financial sustainability.
As a general concept, e-Governance applies data sharing through the interaction between administrations, individuals and businesses when providing electronic public services. We can say that e-Governance represent a way of applying and using information and communication technologies, to ensure access to information and provide interactive public services.
Benefits of LPA digitalisation
Thus, data sharing and access to electronic information can certainly bring people closer to LPAs and provide advantages to both participants: LPAs can get more support in their activities and more trust in the obtained data, while individuals can have a better understanding and solve more efficient and faster their problems.
Implementation of data/electronic information sharing scenario brings the following benefits:
- higher efficiency in the activity of local public administration;
- broader access to administrative services;
- ensuring transparency, reducing bureaucracy and corruption in the activity of local public authorities;
- stimulating the creation and implementation of software systems and applications aimed at supporting the reform and development in e-Governance;
- increasing the knowledge of civil servants from local public administration in information technologies and data sharing;
- developing the regulatory framework on e-Governance at local level;
- improved information literacy;
- strengthened electronic democracy;
- high degree of using information technologies.
As a benefit of implementing data sharing scenario, individuals will not be required to submit physically different documents and certificates, which are currently issued by state institutions for a cost.
Another benefit of using the data sharing is the reduced time for reviewing the documents received by pubic authorities because they can access the needed information in electronic format (about individuals, businesses, goods in possession, etc.) in the state information registers, in real time, with updated and accurate data.
This will also eliminate bureaucracy, which is currently caused by the need to exchange documents, certificates, reports, financial reports between mayoralties and district centres, because the documents will be accessed from the Information Resources and there will be no need to submit them on paper.
The aim and the legal basis for accessing electronic data of LPAs is established by Law No 436-XVI/2006 on Local Public Administration, which lists the categories of participants in data sharing: local public authorities, individuals, businesses. Law No 142 on Data Sharing and Interoperability was approved on 19 July 2018 at the initiative of the Government of the Republic of Moldova. In compliance with Article 1(1) of the Law No 142/2018, the aim of the Law is to facilitate and enhance the efficiency of data sharing and interoperability in the public and private sectors, in order to increase the quality of provided public services, create new public electronic services and ensure the information security. According to the Law, the data sharing means provision of data/information by public/private authorities, consumption of data by data consumers or transmission of data from one information system to another. The Government Decision No 211 on Interoperability Platform (MConnect) entered into force on 03.04.2019, and according to Item 45, data consumers who do not own information systems that are able to consume data in automated regime, can access those data by using the Government Data Portal (www.date.gov.md).
Given the above mentioned and taking into account the tasks of local public administration authorities provided for in Law No 436/2006 on Local Public Administration, LPAs have the opportunity to access, for free, the data/information owned by the State Information Registers (State Population Register, State Register of Legal Entities, Real Estate Register, information registers owned by the National Social Insurance House, National Health Insurance Company, etc.) and use it for work, thus avoiding the information on paper.
Digitalisation of LPAs in the Republic of Moldova
Data sharing and e-Governance can help LPAs to be more efficient, provide better services, meet people’s requirements for transparency and accountability, become more inclusive and regain people’s trust in authorities and in the services provided.
A successful example in this respect are the northern districts – Edinet, Riscani and Glodeni, which currently access data about individuals, data about socially insured people, information about the salary income, the list of sanatorium vouchers or compensations a person received, the list of payments/social benefits to which a person is entitled.
Mayoralties and suburbs of Chisinau municipality have access to data from the National Social Insurance House and from the Information Registers of the State Tax Service.
Straseni, Leova and Ialoveni access data about the social insurance payments to which an individual is entitled and data about the salary income.
Based on the above, we note that a very small territory of the Republic of Moldova uses successfully the electronic data sharing mechanism. Thus, the coverage of this sector is less visible and need to be further promoted.
These services should meet the daily needs of individuals, eliminating the need to queue up at the doors of state institutions (Public Service Agency, National Social Insurance House, State Tax Service, etc.), because all the information owned by these institutions can be accessed online by the representatives of mayoralties and district centers.
Moreover, this is regulated by Law No 142/2018 on Data Sharing and Interoperability, which forces public authorities to provide services without requesting documents when the data contained in these documents are available in the Information Registers and can be checked and used online.
Barriers and impediments to LPA digitalisation
Currently, we find a range of barriers and impediments to LPA digitalisation, such as the low level of IT knowledge and poor digital literacy. People are not aware about digital services and their benefits compared to the traditional ones and they are afraid to make a change and exit their comfort zone. Electronic services need to be promoted as a matter of emergency, particularly at local level, by identifying a leading institution in charge of this segment.
A major impediment is the lack of social partnership between the main stakeholders of e-Governance: central public administration, local public administrations, businesses, civil society, academia, as well as the lack of political will as things can be solved rapidly when politicians understand the problem and the benefits of public service digitalisation and are not afraid to take the risks of change.
At the same time, there is a need to assume, at national level, the responsibility for the LPA digitalisation, including for the use and implementation of data sharing in electronic format.
Measures and interventions to accelerate the digitalisation of public services at the level of local public authorities
To accelerate the service digitalisation it is necessary to identify a leader (institution, NGP, individual, working group under the council or mayoralty) that would promote the broad use of digital services through education programs, physical or online digital trainings, local media, communication campaigns and present success models, including in the field of data sharing. They can be initiated in collaboration with e-Government Agency P.I., Congress of Local Authorities of the Republic of Moldova or ONGs specialised in e-Governance and should be presented in a convenient and accessible language.
Moreover, it is necessary to be in direct contact with representatives of public authorities and people, because an electronic solution will be accepted by the society only if it is developed and implemented by taking into account the needs and realities at the level of community, which bring a final benefit to all: council – mayoralty – people.
Thus, on the basis of this assigned role, the responsible entity should develop an action plan for long, medium and short term that would facilitate the digitalisation of public services provided by local public authorities, as well as the access of LPAs to data/information from State Information Registers in order to perform their job duties.
In the long run, it is necessary to develop a single Web Service for LPAs, able to provide all LPAs with the possibility to digitalise their internal processes (submission of applications, issuance of documents, provision of electronic services, exchange of information between LPAs), including to consume electronic data.
In the medium term, it is proposed to study the internal processes of LPAs, organise meetings with district, local councils and mayoralties to identify the set of data/information they need to consume to perform their duties and submit a centralised application on behalf al LPAs in order to have access to data.
In the short run, or immediately, it is necessary to identify a target group of mayoralties, district and local councils and organise an information campaign to present the benefits of electronic data sharing via the Government Data Portal in order to pilot this scenario, which will further be implemented on the entire territory of the Republic of Moldova.
In order to cope with the digitalisation impact it is very important to ensure cooperation with political stakeholders in order to set a national perspective for the progress of e-Government in the Republic of Moldova and particularly, at local level. Political will and engagement will reduce the barriers and the reluctance of public institutions towards digitalisation, and it can also change and modernise the regulatory framework at central and local level, if necessary.
Examples of success stories
The infrastructure of LPA administration can be developed and its internal system can be debureaucratised by implementing the digital transformation of local public administration. This trend is increasing in the European Union, and success stories include the information software integrated by local e-Government – ‘City Magement’ or ‘Smart Village’ largely applied in Romania.
More specifically, here are several services that can be accessed by local administrations that implemented this e-Government solution: online submission of documents, online notification of problems, online payment of taxes, fees and fines via modern methods (QR Code, bar code, Mobile Wallet, online banking), online meetings of local councils, electronic register office, online check of documents, online issuance of documents like tax certificates and Land Registry certificates.
Another successful example is Tallinn, which reveals its ambition to become a leader among intelligent and innovative cities, among small capitals in the world and focuses on data management for a better decision making process and improved capacity for all smart city initiatives. Thus, the most innovative experience is the digitalisation of Municipal Council meetings, during which councillors get connected with an identity card or mobile ID, they can express their desire to speak about certain topics included on the agenda, to vote safely on all decisions and check the vote accuracy.
There are already quite many interesting smart projects implemented in Tallinn. For example, city planning uses a high number of last generation geo-information solutions. The entire planning process is conducted on the basis of high quality mapping software, online databases and analysis capacities. Virtual methods and technologies are used to conduct their own construction of the city. There is a technology for monitoring the urban air and measuring the traffic flow. Those 900 batteries and sensors of solar panels attached to the street lightning posts from Tallinn will start to collect data about environment and traffic. In future, the project could help reduce the noise, thus creating a more friendly urban landscape.
The most popular e-Services in Tallinn, of which several are available on mobile devices are the mobile and web application of public transport (schedules, online tracking, trip planner, city map) and the application for traffic cameras because they cover the most important crossroads from Tallinn and provides the most relevant, detailed and updated information about traffic jams, official web map of Tallinn and city evolutions.
Tallinn has 86 fully digitalised last generation electronic services, which allow people to submit an application, to give online feedback about the process and benefit from many efficient digital services such as application for one-off birth benefit, requests to the city archive to receive documents, applications for funding from business entities in support of entrepreneurial initiatives from city leadership, requests for licenses and permits for organising meetings and public events.
A number of 570 services are available in Tallinn and all of them are partially digital. The website of city leadership contains a database in which all the services are presented and described.
Future plans of the Republic of Moldova should be oriented towards the digitalisation of towns and villages in order to allow people to request or use the desired services via electronic channels only. To achieve this, it is necessary to promote electronic solutions that will replace the traditional ones, thus offering people the opportunity to access quickly free efficient digital services.
Igor CIUREA, Lid Moldova Expert for Civil Society Development, Human Rights, Public Policies. Is member of National Agency for Research and Development (NARD). He is also member of various international groups of experts, such as the European Youth Researchers of the EU-CoE partnership, European Youth Forum’s Expert Group, etc. Igor Ciurea constantly provides consultancy and analysis services for UN agencies in Moldova, public institutions and nongovernmental organisations in the following areas: civil society development, human rights, development of results and evidence based national and local public policies, youth and sustainable community development.
Education and professional development: Graduate of Moldova State University, Faculty of Law. Master degree in the same institution in the field of civil judiciary proceedings. He participated in various trainings in project management, impact assessment, development of result based public policies, human rights and international tools for their protection, etc.
Publications and research: Author of over 30 publications, practical guidelines and public policy analyses, among which Disparities-based Youth Index (2015), Analysis of Youth Local Budgets (2014-2020), Assessment of National Public Budget form Youth Perspective (2018), Community Activism Guidelines (2020), Integrating the Rights of Young People in International Mechanisms for Human Rights Protection (2021), e-Governance for the Republic of Moldova. General Reference and Good Practices, Assessing the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Development of the Youth Sector (2021), etc.
Igor Aramă, started to work in the legal area in 2014 and is specialised in implementing and developing e-Government and the administrative reform at LPA and CPA level. As a graduate of the Faculty of Law and as a lawyer employed at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, State Chancellery and e-Government Agency P.I., during the years of study and professional activity he has acquired case-law knowledge that he is successfully applying now.
During his work, he was involved in developing, promoting, endorsing and interpreting regulatory acts, public policy documents, orders and work instructions regarding the implementation of the legal framework on public services provided by the state institutions through electronic technologies and development of administrative reform at LPA and CPA level.