Author: Teona Turashvili
The UN E-Government Survey shows that Georgia falls behind regional and global tendencies of increasing e-governance and e-participation.
In the 2016 survey, Georgia received a score of 0.61 in e-government, ranking 61st among 193 countries. In the previous survey conducted two years ago Georgia had a score of 0.60 and held the 56th position (see. Figure #1 and Figure #2).
The country has fared worse in the e-participation index, where its score decreased from 0.59 to 0.56 and lost 27 positions in the global raking (from 49th to 76th place) from 2014 to 2016.
Georgia falls significantly behind the average score received by European countries in both indices (0.7).
Among 15 post-Soviet countries, Georgia ranks 8th in e-government and 10th in e-participation. In 2014, the country held the 7th place in both rankings.
In 2016, Georgia falls behind Baltic States, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan in both components. In e-government specifically, Georgia falls behind Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
About the UN E-Government Survey
The E-Government Survey is prepared every two years by the United Nations. The results of 193 countries are then organized into two indices: 1. the E-Government Development Index; and 2. the E-Participation Index.
The survey aims to assess the global tendencies in the development of electronic governance and identify challenges.
The comparison of 2014 and 2016 results of the e-government index for Georgia shows that the country scored only slightly higher for online services and slightly lower for telecommunications infrastructure and human resources parameters (see. Figure #3).
The e-participation index reflects the government's readiness to employ new technologies to promote citizen participation in the process of governance. It consists of three components: e-information, e-consultation and e-decision-making.
From these three components Georgia has only improved e-consultation. The country has a score of 0 in the e-decision-making component, pointing to the inexistence of citizen engagement platforms. Finally, despite previous progress in terms of online access to public information, in 2016 Georgia worsened its score in e-information (see. Figure #4).
What could have been done better?
The results show that in the last two years Georgia has not made any tangible progress in e-governance. On the contrary, the use of new technologies for citizen participation in the governance process has declined.
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information believes that the Georgian government could have improved its rating in the UN E-Government and E-Participation indices simply by fulfilling its international commitments.
Even though the Georgian government has declared e-governance as a priority, no new platforms of services have been created over the past two years that would increase citizen participation. Worth mentioning in this regard is the commitment of the Georgian Government under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative to launch an online platform - ICHAGE.GE that would allow citizens to submit petitions to the government. The Government Administration announced the platform in July 2015. The platform is yet to be launched.
Even though Public Service Halls in Georgia do provide one-stop shop services to citizens, it is necessary to take the next step and allow citizens to receive most of these services online. This could be achieved through further development of the online platform - MY.GOV.GE by increasing the number of users and introducing an electronic signature system.
Improving standards of access to information is equally important. First of all, the government must create a policy and common standards on mandatory disclosure of public sector data. Even though Georgia already has an open data portal - DATA.GOV.GE, the number of participant public institutions is currently very low.
The Georgian government also failed to fulfill its commitment to initiate a new law on freedom of information (OGP Action Plan 2014-2015). The new law would introduce higher standards of public access to information and open data processing.
Finally, Georgia faces a serious challenge of uneven implementation of e-governance on the central and local levels of government, which contributes to low scores in e-government rating. Currently, only a handful of municipalities use digital technologies and e-management systems.
Conclusion and Recommendations
According to the 2016 UN E-Government Survey, Georgia has not made any tangible progress in e-governance over the past two years, but rather has regressed in terms of e-participation.
In order to remedy the situation, the Georgian government must intensify its efforts towards improving e-governance, which can be achieved through fulfilling its international commitments, such as:
• Creating a unified and coordinated state policy of e-governance by implementing measures included in the Public Administration Reform Strategy Action Plan.
• Launching online platforms that will allow citizens to participate in the decision-making process. These include online petitions, discussion forums and platforms.
• Setting higher standards of access to information by introducing mandatory disclosure of public sector data. This will obligate public institutions to publish more data in machine readable formats.
• Working towards extending the benefits of public services by making them available online. At this stage, the most important step would be the introduction of electronic signature, without which the citizen portal MY.GOV.GE will be difficult to develop further. It is also necessary to raise citizen awareness about the use of online services.
• Accelerating the introduction of e-governance standards in the regions, in order to eliminate the digital gap between the capital and the rest of the country.
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