How to step up e-government effectiveness

Although important steps have recently been taken in Azerbaijan in the implementation of e-government strategy, greater transparency, efficiency and participation of civil society is still required. This opinion was voiced during the workshop on "Technical and legal aspects of the implementation of e-government strategy in Azerbaijan", which was organized on November 29 by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) as part of Expression Online Initiative. The event was supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).

In her opening speech, IMS Programme Manager Gulnara Akhundova stated that the purpose of the e-government is to facilitate government-citizen interaction and public services. She noted that despite of the invitations from the organizers of the workshop, representatives of the agencies responsible for the implementation of the e-government program, the ICT Ministry and the State Agency for Public Services and Social Innovations did not attend the discussions.
IREX representative Alasgar Mammadli noted that the e-government is considered effective only if 60% of the country’s population have access to the internet. In Azerbaijan however, many of the 4,500 villages of the country have not been provided with broadband Internet access. Azerbaijan still maintains high prices for internet, despite of the recent declines. Now 1 Mb /s internet costs 15 AZN which is almost equal to 15% of the minimum salary rate. As for the electronic services provided by the government, most of them are informative only.
IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov mentioned that although the law on electronic signatures was adopted in 2004, the provision of e-signatures was delayed for 7 years. However, there are security concerns with regard to the use of electronic signatures. Huseynov suggested implementing European best practices, where the security of digital signatures is strengthened by adding biometric information such as fingerprint and eye color.
Social media expert Bakhtiyar Hajiyev observed that many of the existing 200 e-government services are inefficient.  According to Hajiyev, another barrier to the successful formation of e-government is the reluctance of some government agencies to conduct inter-agency exchange of data.
All three speakers supported the application of a single PIN code, which will let citizens log into e-services of any government agency.
Drawing comparison between the provision of e-services by the Azerbaijani government and those by other Post Soviet countries, a workshop participant expressed the view that the situation is not encouraging in Azerbaijan.
 Participants unanimously agreed that the government should work with and consult civil society institutions and carry out public awareness raising activities in order to better guarantee the effective implementation of the e-government program.   

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