The article has been prepared for analytical articles’ contest on "Public Administration Reform in Georgia“, announced by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) within the EU-funded project “Contributing to PAR through Civic Monitoring and engagement”. The content may not reflect the opinion of IDFI/the European Union.
Author of the article: Nino Taganashvili
- Access to services on the Citizen Portal is hampered by the lack of Internet and computer skills, limited access to high-speed Internet, especially in small towns or villages;
- Many people still do not have information about the services that can be received without leaving home, without extra finances and time;
- Educational campaigns are not conducted as regularly as necessary, periodic meetings need to be organized not only for the citizen's portal, but also for the digitization of services in general;
- Unified procedures for the administration of services by service providers have not yet been adopted, and legislative amendments are being made in this direction;
- Public entities show less initiative (especially in municipalities) in terms of digitally offering all services, there is no mechanism for obliging administrative bodies in this regard;
- The new strategy of Digital Georgia has not been updated, development of respective action plans in this regard by agencies independently is significant too;
- In terms of ensuring cyber security and protection of personal data, the search for appropriate funding and training of citizens in this area should be continued; Fundraising and training of citizens should be continued to ensure cyber security and protection of personal data;
- The process of designing or redesigning the services should continue, the feedback model should be fully integrated on the MY.GOV.GE portal;
- To better identify the needs of customers, it is advisable for citizens to be involved in the process before the stage of developing the service and launching it on the portal - in particular, during the consultation stage.
Prior to the creation of the Unified Portal of E-Services (MY.GOV.GE) in Georgia, government agencies more or less provided information to citizens and businesses about the services offered by them, in most cases, on-site services were required, often from one agency to another, so it was difficult for citizens to identify the relevant agency and service. The aim of creating a unified digital portal was to consolidate the digital infrastructure based on the European principles of free and fair competition, to maximize access to services using the Internet and electronic ID card, to deliver them flexibly and transparently, to save time and additional costs.
The aim of the fourth direction of the 2019-2020 Action Plan of the Public Administration Reform Roadmap 2020 is to improve the service delivery in Georgia to make it citizen-oriented, quality, well-administered, and accessible to all.
Hundreds of services have been made available to portal users on a one-window basis after registering and agreeing to the portal rules, following the creation of the unified multifunctional e-services portal for the public and private sectors. In addition to the unique and secure authentication capability, the portal has a payment function, with the protection of personal data and relevant cyber security.
Both information and transactional (functional) services are integrated on the portal. With the introduction of MY.GOV.GE in the field of public services, citizens can contact public agencies easily, on equal terms, regardless of their geographical distribution. The exchange of information between public institutions has been simplified, the administrative burden that would otherwise have been imposed on the citizen has been reduced. The introduction of the principles of "digital by default" and "only once" significantly saved costs and speeded up the decision-making process. The digitization of services has made the decision-making process more or less open and transparent, and therefore progressive steps have been taken to reduce corruption risks. Process automation has reduced the likelihood of "human error" being made, and the scope for the exercise of broad discretionary powers by public officials has become much narrower. I would especially like to mention the connection between the environment and the delivery of e-services; if before, both the agency and the citizen had to use a lot of paper as consumables, the ability to receive hundreds of services electronically, had a positive impact on the environment - all the necessary documents can be downloaded on the portal. It is important that portal users are given the opportunity to control the information themselves - with the functionality of correcting submitted documents. Simple, value-adding graphic design is used, short and precise formulations are given, and “bureaucratic language" is less used.
See the change of the number of services by years
The introduction of MY.GOV.GE and digital services in mobile mode is a progressive and innovative step, which is evidenced by the above-mentioned advantages the portal offers. However, despite the results achieved, in terms of digitization of services and public access, there are challenges in different directions. This served as a precondition for the 2019-2020 Public Administration Reform Action Plan to include an objective (4.5) to improve access to public and private sectors’ electronic services by strengthening MY.GOV.GE. Respective outcome indicators were outlined – increased number of electronic services available at MY.GOV.GE. Given that the objective is to improve access to e-services, it is important for this indicator to accurately measure whether the relevant goal is achievable. If we assume that the number of private and public services has doubled, it does not automatically mean that the public has full access to the services, the process may be delayed due to other additional factors (low awareness, lack of relevant Internet using skills, etc.), the number of service users may also increase, but for various reasons the feedback may still be negative. The purpose of digitalization is not to offer service in general, but to provide quality service, so it is important to determine measurable and at the same time ambitious indicators to assess progress and challenges. As for the output indicators, the first of them (188.8.131.52) envisages the preparation of legislative amendments to regulate the delivery of public e-services and submission to the government.
General Administrative Code of Georgia (GAC) in force does not define a service (including e-service); provision of public services uniquely implies the exercise of public administrative authority, as it is an activity carried out by an administrative body within the scope of its authority in accordance with the rules established by law, which outlines and assigns delivery of the service and gives the power to instruct the delivery of the service to a natural or legal person and it aims to meet the legitimate request of the interested person; while in the case of electronic services the method of service delivery is different and information and communication channels are used. Although, for example, administrative legislation of Georgia and the current version of the GAC do not define e-service, the State and public agencies have an unconditional obligation to provide such services to citizens, including: municipal, social services, services provided by the MIA Service Agency and the Social Service Agency, information about which are provided in other regulatory legislative acts. It is clear that this arrangement is highly fragmented and requires systematization. The creation of a unified legal framework will eliminate ambiguity, and heterogeneity. The development of a unified service delivery policy without legislative regulation makes no sense. At this stage, work on amendments to the law is underway.
The Action Plan (Activity 4.5.2) also envisaged adapting the environment for visually impaired users. Providing context-friendly/inclusive design services is important to achieve digital inclusion. From the compatibility menu the user can choose the sound mode, contrast, font, layout. Similar adapted services are not offered in many European countries, among them the Albanian portal - E-albania, the Ukrainian portal Diia and the Serbian platform - euprava.gov.rs.
As for another area related to the guidance video material on the use of e-services integrated on the portal, work is underway in this area as well, however the progress has been somewhat hampered by the Covid pandemic. There is no online assistance tool (assistant chat-box) available on the portal today, where the operator (or the system working with the corresponding algorithm) will provide mobile assistance to the customer, as it is available in the case of Latvian e-portal.
There are many other challenges in terms of digitalization of services, level of public awareness about digital services is low, especially for the elderly, who may have low e-literacy to work with technologies.
Insufficient access to Internet infrastructure is also a problem. Surveys show that Georgian (63%) and Ukrainian citizens have the lowest internet access among neighboring and Eastern Partnership countries. In addition, it is important to have access to high-speed internet to get quality service. If we check the statistics of computer accessibility and e-literacy, we will see that "only 62% of households in Georgia own a computer, while 46% of the population think that they do not have the necessary basic knowledge to use it". The number of mobile internet users is relatively growing, however, it should be noted that the mobile application of MY.GOV.GE has not been created. For comparison, it is created in Ukraine „Diia App – Spiika”, which makes receiving e-services easier.
Another problem is that public officials (especially at the municipal level) do not have a vision of how digital technologies can improve the public administration process.
One of the alternative ways to use MY.GOV.GE is an ID card, however, as it turns out, by 2019, the majority of ID card holders (84%) have never used an ID card to perform an electronic operation.
See percentage of electronic ID card holdings in Georgia and Estonia
In addition, less credibility of e-services is often caused by both the risks of improper protection of personal data and less support for cybersecurity infrastructure. Upgrading IT programs as well as relevant licenses requires a large financial resource. Ensuring cyber security and effective management of personal data is extremely important in terms of the credibility of service delivery and increasing public trust.
There is often a mismatch between the state and customers in terms of the supply of services and the need for them, the needs of the customers must be identified and the relevant services offered. For example, today the service of obtaining a COVID passport is especially in demand, which can be obtained at the houses of justice and service centers. It is desirable to integrate this service on the MY.GOV.GE portal. The Ukrainian practice is also interesting, where the Ministry of Digital Transformation invites citizens to test new services before the new service becomes available to the general public, which is a good example of identifying the exact needs of citizens and their digital engagement.
B. Klievink, M. Janssen / Government Information Quarterly 26 (2009) 275-284
As a result of the analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the Citizen Portal, I think Georgia is at the third stage in the development of e-governance. In response to the challenges the development of ambitious action plans and strategies, improved communication with citizens, and an ongoing dialogue on the positive effects of digitization of services and digitalization in general is essential.
Several steps need to be taken to improve access to e-services, including:
- IT infrastructure needs to be improved, especially in mountainous regions, to improve access to high-speed Internet;
- It is necessary to continue the awareness-raising campaign - in this regard it will be important to raise low awareness through various activities (videos, brochures, radio or TV) not only about the e-portals, but also about the benefit of e-governance in general. The level of awareness on such issues should be increased among both citizens and representatives of the business sector. Specific modules of action should be developed with respect to who will be trained, what will be the frequency of the training and the results achieved should be evaluated. In this section, it is also relevant to update existing textbooks and publications;
- Work on legislative amendments should continue in order to guide the development of common service delivery procedures for service providers and to develop a unified policy;
- Administrative bodies should take more initiative to place all electronic services on the citizens' portal;
- The "Digital Georgia 2014-2018" strategy should be updated and it should be mandatory for all agencies to independently develop a long-term action plan for "digitalization";
- The key is to build trust, which is primarily achieved through the support of cyber security. Organizing information meetings should be continued in this direction, it is necessary to find appropriate financial resources to ensure the proper functioning of information systems;
- The process of designing or redesigning the services should be intensively continued, the information received as a result of the feedback should be constantly processed, in order to further refine the processes.
Thus, information and communication technologies play a leading role in the successful implementation of public administration, although political will, systematic, updated legislation and the removal of bureaucratic barriers are essential factors to improve the quality of service delivery. Digital decision-making affects not only the relationship between citizens and government agencies, but also the internal management systems of agencies. However, the most important thing is that the provision of e-services improves the quality of life of citizens in cities, towns or villages. Through e-services, citizens have a much larger platform to be actively involved in the decision-making process. Decisions based on such involvement are much more rewarding, effective, and results-oriented in the long run.
The use of electronic multifunctional digital portals is already inevitable to create a SMART (Simple, Ethical, Accountable, Responsible and Transparent) government. However, states need to start active and rational advocacy for e-government initiatives. The portal described in the article serves to achieve sustainable, flexible, innovative, and democratic public administration.
1. Survey - Internet Usage and Accessibility Tendencies in Georgia, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, 2020;
2. Klievink B., Janssen M., Realizing joined-up government—Dynamic capabilities and stage models for transformation, 26;
3. Public Administration Reform Roadmap 2020;
4. Public Administration Reform Action Plan for 2019-2020;
5. Alternative Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the Public Administration Reform Action Plan for 2019-2020, Direction 4: Public Service Delivery, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information;
6. Interim Study, Public Administration Reform, ACT, 2019;
7. e-Georgia: a technology-enabled journey towards an equitable, transparent, and sustainable public sector, Data Exchange Agency (Digital Governance Agency), 2019;
8. Progress Report on Monitoring Public Administration Reform Action Plan Implementation (January-June, 2020), Government Administration of Georgia, August, 2020.
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