E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development
Public Organiz Rev (2010) 10:31–47 DOI 10. 1007/s11115-009-0087-6 E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development Shahjahan H. Bhuiyan Published online: 9 July 2009 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009 Abstract This paper critically examines the progress made in introducing and implementing e-government programs and policies in Kazakhstan. It argues that in order to achieve the articulated development goals, the Kazakh government has moved toward e-government paradigm to ascertain a people-centered, accountable and transparent government.
Available data substantiates that the initiative faces several challenges such as political support and relationship between political institutions, bureaucracy and citizens, digital divide, widespread corruption, lack of human resources, and inadequate infrastructural development, which needs to be amputated to improve public service delivery. This study illustrates some international development experiences to understand the benefit of e-government. Such experiences may serve as policy guidelines to the successful implementation of e-government to ensure overall development in Kazakhstan.
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Keywords Development . E-government . Kazakhstan . Service delivery Introduction Electronic governance has been widely endorsed as a solution to a range of predicaments in the public sector. With promises of decreasing corruption, cutting red tape, reducing government costs, and fluctuating participatory governance, the egovernance revolution has swept most nations, capturing the imaginations of policy makers and attracting the interests of citizens and business alike (Salem 2006).
Electronic government evolves swiftly through defined stages, beginning with a web presence of public agencies (“interaction”) to a means for citizens around the clock seven days a week in the convenience of their homes (“transaction”) (Netchaeva 2002). This essentially creates a new ground for public sector operation. The S. H. Bhuiyan (*) Department of Public Administration, Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP), 4 Abai Avenue, Almaty 050010, Kazakhstan e-mail: [email protected] com 32 S. H. Bhuiyan equence of stages was depicted as inevitable, fueled by technology, citizen demand, and economic realities in the public sector (Mayer-Schonberger and Lazer 2007). The prime objective of any technological innovation is to improve the quality of human condition. This cannot be achieved by technological advances alone. First and foremost, they have to be successfully applied to human society. Such an approach is significant for governance and public administration because of its impact on a larger section of the society (Sharma 2002).
To reap benefit of the information and communication technology (ICT), international development agencies are paying considerable attention to the gradual improvement of egovernment, particularly in developing countries. The most recent United Nations Report entitled e-Government Survey 2008: From e-Government to Connected Governance succinctly illustrates the importance of e-governance: ‘E-government can contribute significantly to the process of transformation of the government towards a leaner, more cost-effective government.
It can facilitate communication and improve the coordination of authorities at different tiers of government, within organizations and even at the departmental level’ (UN 2008, p. xii). In the same vein, the 2001 Human Development Report entitled Making New Technologies Work for Human Development, commissioned by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), clearly portrays the role of ICT for development as it stated: ‘[I]t is time for a new partnership between technology and development. Human Development Report 2001 is intended as the manifesto for that partnership’ (UNDP 2001, p. iii). Again, in the United
Nations system, the World Bank launched an e-government website, and in November 2002 its Information for Development Program released The E-Government Handbook for Developing Countries. Later on, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development convened the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December 2003, and in Tunis in November 2005. Outside the UN system, many initiatives were launched. One was the Roadmap for E-Government in the Developing World, released by the Pacific Council on International Policy in April 2002 (Holliday and Yep 2005, p. 239). Kazakhstan was a part of the USSR until its collapse in 1990.
During the Soviet regime, public documents were largely shelved as ‘classified’, and thus restricting people’s access. Living with such cynic norms of governmental operation for years, the Government of Kazakhstan (GoK), after independence in 1991, quickly realized the need of a transparent and accountable government. In the midst of transitional challenges, the Government has chosen the introduction of e-government for the twin objectives of providing fast and quality access to public services and of improving public services’ effectiveness through the widespread use of ICT in the public sector (World Bank 2006).
In order to measure how far e-government initiatives have contributed to the improvement of relationships between politicians, bureaucrats and citizens in post-independence Kazakhstan, this paper: (i) analyzes the background to the introduction of e-government programs and policies; (ii) describes the overall development of e-government; (iii) investigates the challenges facing the implementation of e-government initiatives; and finally (iv) highlights its contribution to development.
In short, the main focus of this paper is to critically examine the progress made so far in introducing and implementing e-government programs and policies in Kazakhstan. This paper concludes by presenting a road E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 33 map showing how e-governance in Kazakhstan can be utilized as an instrument of development. In reality, Kazakhstan is in transition. Of the many transitions now going on, an important one is the shift from ‘closed’ to ‘information’ society.
Here lies the significance of the present study, insofar as it analyzes how this shift is being negotiated in a crucial area of development, the public sector. There is much to gain from a critical assessment of the success of e-government initiatives have so far attained in post-independence Kazakhstan, as it sheds light on the challenges it is confronted with at present, which in turn helps to identify some of the ways as to how they can effectively be overcome. The existing scholarship on e-government in Kazakhstan is less than satisfactory.
This paper is intended to make a contribution to the steadily emerging area of study focused on e-government in a local as well as global context. Methodology This paper is based primarily on secondary sources. Three sources in particular have been explored and analyzed: first, published academic journal and newspaper articles on e-government; second, reports published by the international organizations; and finally, review of websites of both public and private agencies in Kazakhstan and elsewhere.
The latter contributes to our understanding regarding the contents and services they provide to citizens. What is E-government? E-government was introduced in the field of public administration in the late 1990s, though it has not been clearly defined and understood by scholars and practitioners of public administration (Moon 2002).
The term e-government arises by analogy to the concepts and practices of electronic commerce applied to the public sector, referring to the delivery of government services to the public ‘on-line’ (typically over the Internet) or to the technological infrastructure required to deliver those services (Brown 2005, p. 242). E-government denotes the strategic, coordinated use of ICT in public administration and policy decision-making (Haldenwang 2004).
Similarly, by e-government, Tandon (2005) refers to the provision of efficient, convenient and transparent services by government departments and agencies to citizens and businesses. The Global study of E-government, a joint research initiative for global egovernment by the United Nations (UN) and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), provides a comprehensive definition of e-government: Broadly defined, e-government includes the use of all information and communication technologies, from fax machines to wireless palm pilots, to facilitate the daily administration of government.
However, like e-commerce, the popular interpretation of e-government is one that defines it exclusively as an Internet driven activity…to which it may be added “that improves citizen access to government information, services and expertise to ensure citizen 34 S. H. Bhuiyan participation in, and satisfaction with the government process…it is permanent commitment by government to improving the relationship between private citizen and the public through enhanced, cost-effective and efficient delivery of services, information and knowledge. It is the practical realization of the best that government has to offer. ” (UN and ASPA 2002, p. 1)
According to World Bank, e-government means to governmental use of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other agencies of government (cited in Sharma 2002, p. 607). The World Bank definition indicates the areas of operation of the concept and also lays down the broad benefits accruing out of this utilization of ICT to the field of governance, namely, to promote citizen empowerment, improve service delivery, strengthen accountability, increase transparency, or improve government efficiency (cited in Tandon 2005, p. ). This paper takes a wider view of e-government by adopting the application of ICT tools to the improvement of governance through building public-private partnership to achieve development. In this article, ‘e-government’ and ‘egovernance’, despite their subtle conceptual differences, are interchangeably used. Kazakhstan: context The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia bounded in the West by the Caspian Sea, in the North by Russia, in the East by China, and in the South by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (see Box 1 for summary information).
Extending over a territory of 2,725,000 square kilometer (Makhmutova 2001), it is the second largest country of the former Soviet Republics with a population of 15. 48 million in 2007 (World Bank 2008), of whom 4. 5 million are ethnic Russians (Wilson et al. 2002), and population density 5. 7 per square kilometer (Agency of Statistics of Kazakhstan website: www. eng. stat. kz). Kazakhstan continues to negotiate the enormous challenges inherent in any transition from a planned to a market economy and, in the last decade, has experienced plummeting production levels (Wilson et al. 002) and two-digit (now 11%) inflation continues to grow. In recent days, Kazakhstan makes considerable progress in almost all aspects of life. Although, critics expressed concern about the limit of the country’s democratic development and the lack of its commitment to hold free and fair elections. For example, the most recent Presidential elections were held in December 2005 when President Nazarbayev won a third term with more than 90% of the vote.
The elections gained negative commentary from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which claimed they had not met international standard, citing campaign restrictions, interference in polling stations, multiple voting, pressure on voters, media bias and restriction on freedom of expression (Keesing 2005 cited in Knox 2008, p. 478). In the same vein, in 2001, another scholar also observed: “It is as yet too early to herald the dawn of real democracy in Kazakhstan” (Robinson 2001).
Kazakhstan’s economy has gone through stages of decline, stagnation, and high economic growth after independence in 1990. The period from 1990 to 1997 was the E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 35 period of negative economic growth, or at best stagnation (in 1995–1997, economic growth was close to zero) due to transformation in economic arrangements. It was only from 1998 that Kazakhstan entered the phase of strong and sustained growth (Agarwal 2008). In the first nine months of 2007, Kazakhstan’s GDP grew by 9. % (ESCAP, 2008). In 2007, GDP per capita was US$ 7,857 (UNDP 2007). However, GDP growth is projected to fall to 5% in 2008, and a modest increase to 6. 3% is penciled in for 2009 (ADB 2008). Over the period 1998–2004, the population living below the poverty line in Kazakhstan declined significantly from 39% in 1998, to 20% in 2004 (Agarwal 2008). The measures being taken by GoK to raise the living standards of the population have cut poverty levels by 1. 7% in 2006 by comparison with 2005 (to 18. %), and the figures for 2007 indicate that poverty levels have fallen to 12. 7% (UNESC 2008). The long-term development strategy ‘Kazakhstan 2030: Prosperity, security and improved living standards for all Kazakhs’ was adopted in 1997. It identified seven priorities for the country’s development: (i) National security, (ii) domestic stability and social cohesion, (iii) economic growth, (iv) health, education and welfare for the citizens of Kazakhstan, (v) energy resources, (vi) infrastructure, transport and communications, and (vii) a professional state.
Since 1998 all the programs adopted in the country are being developed in accordance with the noted development strategy of the country, which aimed at improving the quality of life for the population by reducing social exclusion and raising the quality of social services, improving the environment, and involving civil society in development (UNESC 2008, p. 6). Box 1: Kazakhstan: summary information Head of State President Nursultan Nazarbayev, first elected in December 1991 and re-elected in 1999 and 2005. National Legislature Bicameral: 77-seat lower house (Majlis), 39-seat pper house (Senate). Language Kazakh is the state language. Russian is most widely spoken. Currency Tenge Exchange rate 2007 average US$ 1 ? 120 Tenge Unemployment rate 8. 8 (2003) Adult literacy rate (% ages 15 and older) 99. 5 (2005) Life expectancy at birth (both genders) 65. 9 years (2005) GDP 104 billion US$ Internet users (per 100 people) 12 Time required to start a business (days) 21 Sources: Agarwal 2008; UNDP 2007; Wilson et al. 2002; World Bank 2008. The development initiatives of GoK have contributed to improving human development index (HDI).
In 2007/8, the HDI for Kazakhstan is 0. 794, which gives the country a rank of 73rd out of 177 countries (UNDP 2007). In the contrary, the 36 S. H. Bhuiyan ongoing mammoth development activities also encouraged, it would seem, widespread corruption in the country. As a result, during the years, Kazakhstan consistently gained poor corruption perception index (CPI). A 2008 Global Country Report on the state of corruption launched by the Transparency International ranks the country 145th among 180 countries with a CPI 2. (Transparency International 2008). Admittedly, the backdrop painted a landscape that suggests the critical importance of implementation of e-government scheme in Kazakhstan with an aim to quick and quality access to public services, improving its effectiveness, combating corruption, poverty reduction through income generation, and thus building a breeding ground for development. The state of E-government in Kazakhstan Overall situation: benchmarking Kazakhstan has envisioned joining 50 most competitive countries in the world by 2030.
In achieving this goal, ICT plays a critical role by readying the country for entry into the forum of competitive world. In doing so, Kazakhstan’s accomplishments in fostering e-government include (World Bank 2006): & & & & & Recognition of e-government as a priority at the highest political level and the elaboration of an e-government strategy; Establishment of the Agency for Informatization and Communications (AIC) as an independent regulatory authority empowered to implement state ICT policy; Creation of government agency Web sites (32 out of 42 government agencies have their own Web sites);
Development of a number of corporate networks and databases (e. g. , integrated taxation, customs, pension information systems) by individual government agencies; and Enacting important legislations such as the laws on e-documents and esignatures. Kazakhstan has made substantial progress in introducing ICT in public sector. In terms of e-readiness, the United Nations Report on the e-Governance Survey 2008 recognizes Kazakhstan as the leader of Central Asia, while the region has regressed the most since the 2005 survey.
This global survey report has ranked the country 81 among 189 countries with an index value 0. 4743 as compared with 65 among 179 in 2005 (UN 2008, pp. 31–32). Table 1 shows e-government readiness in Central Asian countries. The table indicates that the countries in the region had a lower e-government readiness index than in 2005. In spite of government’s efforts, Kazakhstan slips from its 2005 position partly because 2008’s Survey had more focus on the interactive and transactional stages which largely remain unachievable, and thus the scores were lower (UN 2008).
Another potential reason is its weak telecommunications facility. A 2004 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data shows that effective teledensity in the country was quite low, 16. 23 (ITU 2004). However, this number continues to improve. In 2000, the main telephone lines per 100 people were 12. 3 E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 37 Table 1 E-government readiness for Central Asia Country 2008 Index 2005 Index 2008 Ranking 2005 Ranking Kazakhstan 0. 4743 Kyrgyzstan 0. 4195 0. 4813 81 65 0. 4417 102 Uzbekistan 0. 4057 76 0. 114 109 Turkmenistan 0. 3262 79 128 … Tajikistan 0. 3150 0. 3346 Region 0. 3881 0. 4173 132 117 World 0. 4514 0. 4267 … Source: UN 2008, p. 32 which increased to 19. 1 in 2006, while in the same period mobile cellular subscriber increased from 1. 3 to 51. 2 (World Bank 2006). The e-Government Survey 2008 data shows that both mainline telephone and cellular user further increased to 19. 77 and 52. 86 respectively (UN 2008). E-government program objectives and implementation Kazakhstan’s e-government program incorporates a three-stage approach (World Bank 2006): & & & st stage: creation of the basic components of e-government infrastructure, such as the governmental portal, a “payment gateway” providing a linkage with the banking system, national identification system, government-wide ICT network backbone infrastructure, creation of cross-agency information systems, provision of mainly informational and transactional e-government services, promoting Internet use among the citizens and bridging the digital divide. 2nd stage: expansion of the scope and depth of e-government services (predominantly of transactional nature) and comprehensive ICT-enabled reengineering of government administrative procedures. rd stage: ICT-based transformation of government agencies’ operation, building a fully-fledged information society, provision of e-health, e-education, e-culture, e-democracy and other services. Some tasks related to the first stage were implemented in 2006. On the April 12, 2006, e-government web-portal (www. e. gov. kz) was launched which provides more than 900 information services (egov magazine 2007). This portal is tri-lingual: Kazakh, Russian and English. Laws ‘On Informatization’ and ‘On Amending Certain Legal acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Sphere of Informatization’ were developed and enacted.
Interagency electronic workflow with digital signature has been implemented in 39 state bodies. A pilot model of National Authentication Center for physical and legal entities has been developed, and a pilot project on integrated transportation medium of state bodies has been implemented in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. In an interview with the egov magazine in July 2007, Kuanishbek Esekeev, the Chairman of AIC, reported that GoK had implemented, on 38 S. H. Bhuiyan an experimental basis, government databases on ‘Physical Bodies’ and ‘Legal Entities’, in six oblasts (regions).
Moreover, 15 interactive services such as land register and address register software were developed and tested in pilot zones: Citizens’ Service Centers (CSC) of Almatinskiy and Saryarkinskiy regions, Astana (egov magazine 2007). To connect citizens with the web, till 2006, 460 public access points kicked off. Eleven classrooms for providing computer literacy were opened in several regions as a part of capacity development of public sector employees, where more than 1,500 civil servants have been trained (egov magazine 2007).
In 1997, a state program was adopted to incorporate information technology (IT) into the general education system, so as to create IT network within the international education space. In 2007, the provision of computers to schools had reached one computer for every 21 pupils compared with one for every 62 in 2001 (UNESC 2008, p. 15). Besides, online instruction has been introduced into the teaching process, comparing a set of five subject schemas, and work has been progressing to connect the education system to the Internet (UNESC 2008).
The AIC is currently working to develop interactive services delivery through national e-government portal. In recent days, the Agency has been successful to deliver limited e-services. For example, it is possible to submit tax statements to the authorities as well as to clear mutual payments with the state budget through electronic channels in real time using digital signatures, which distinguishes Kazakhstan from other CIS countries (World Bank 2006, p. 10). In March 2006, a service has been launched, which enables citizens to submit applications to five ministries (e. . , Ministry of Economic Affairs and Budget Planning) and get an answer to his or her question in 3 to 5 working days. Almost all Akimats (city government) and ministries opened their virtual reception rooms. Visitors can download reference-document; get acquainted with legal base and search addresses of various offices (AIC website: www. aic. gov. kz). Future plans The transactional phase of e-government development will allow citizens to pay for using public services via governmental portal.
AIC is in the process to implement a payment scheme based on existing electronic transactional (payment) system of second-tier banks. GoK is committed to build a transparent information society that presupposes gradual increase of the portal users in number. It means this will eventually transfer public services delivery only in electronic form. As a move to this, AIC plans to provide 900 different kinds of services that are to be exhibited on the portal in 2009 (egov magazine 2007). The challenges
In 2005, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has estimated that more than 60% of e-government projects in developing countries fail (Salem 2006). Likewise, Kazakhstan confronts with multifaceted challenges to the introduction of e-government, and some of them are described here. E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 39 Political support and relationship between political institutions, bureaucracy and citizens Kazakhstan e-government program receives strong support from the President and his office.
AIC has been given a mandate to coordinate and lead the effort (World Bank 2006). But problem arises due to the government’s tendency to monopolize political power (Perlman and Gleason 2007), dodging the established norms of multi-party politics. As a consequence, in the August 2007 elections, the President’s political party “Nur Otan” (father land) received 88. 41% of vote and captured all seats, and thus became the only party in the parliament when none of the parties were able to meet 7% threshold required to obtain parliamentary seats (Bakenova 2008, p. 4; Iqbal 2007). It is corroborated that political elitism is compounded by the fact that Kazakh opposition political parties are in disarray and fractured, offering no real alternative to the voting public (Knox 2008, p. 487). Kazakhstan is dominated by a formal political elite and a highly centralized and power base comprising the Administration of the President of Kazakhstan and key stakeholders therein: the State Secretary, Head of Administration and Security Council Secretary (Knox 2008).
Cummings (2005, cited in Knox 2008) argued that the elite system is a compelling factor behind the emergence and maintenance of authoritarianism in Kazakhstan. Given disintegrated political context, it is clear that political communication develops in line with one’s party affiliation, which limits the general trust in government. As a result, the nature of relationship existing between the party in power and opposition signals low quality of political development in Kazakhstan. The lack of political participation, however, compartmentalizes the development of e-governance.
On the other hand, a major means through which interaction between citizens and politicians occurs is the parliamentary website, which is supposed to facilitate the top-down flow of information from the legislature to citizens, allow a bottom-up channel for feedback from citizens to the elected members, increase transparency by providing detailed information about legislative procedures and activities, expand the number of avenues for greater public scrutiny of the nature and processes of public policies and thus enhance the accountability of these elected politicians to their constituencies (Norris 2001, cited in Haque 2002, p. 38). To this point, Kazakh Parliament maintains a website (www. parlan. kz) and provides a list of basic information such as parliamentary activities, legislative acts, constitution, and list of parliamentary groups. It also provides an option to the website visitors to contact parliamentary secretariat to inform their queries and comments. The emergence of e-governance has significantly changed the nature of the relationship between citizens and public servants (Haque 2002). A 2002 World Bank survey made an assessment of Kazakhstan’s governance and service delivery.
The survey suggests that general areas where Government can work on to improve the quality of public services through e-government. For example, the results of the survey indicated that households were not satisfied with their interactions with public officials (World Bank 2002). To improve this perception, ICT can be utilized for the reduction in the time that citizens and businesses have to spend to complete transactions with public bodies can be set as one of the performance indicators. If the transactions can 40 S. H. Bhuiyan e completed online, citizens do not have to spend the time to visit and wait at a public office, as long as they have an Internet connection (World Bank 2006, p. 20). Corruption In April 2005, the President of Kazakhstan signed a decree ‘On Measures to Step up the Fight against Corruption’ to strengthen discipline in the activities of state bodies and officials (Transparency International 2006, p. 185). Against this backdrop, petty corruption in the various form of bribe taking is a fixture of daily life (Gleason 1997, p. 379). High profile corruptions are also rampant.
For example, the President of the state-owned Kazakh Telecom joint-stock company was sacked by Security Council when it was revealed that his monthly wage was $365,000 (Knox 2008, p. 487). Similarly, in 2007, Kazakh Anti-corruption Agency (financial police) filed charges against the selection committee of “Bolashak” (future) program, a presidential scholarship scheme that enables talented young Kazakhs to study in developed countries. The charges stated that many scholarships have been actually purchased through the corrupt jury decisions (Bakenova 2008, p. 94).
It is widely believed that e-governance is promised to reduce corruption, which displeases corrupt political executives and bureaucrats, who, in turn, create building blocks to the implementation of e-government programs. Digital divide ‘Digital divide’—exclusion of groups within the population to get access to a computer—is another challenge that has received government attention. It reveals that only 12% of the population in Kazakhstan has skills to use PCs and half of them can use computer without being helped (egov magazine 2007), and only 12% are Internet users (World Bank 2008).
To bridge the gap, the government is implementing Digital Inclusion Program for years 2007–2009. This program aims to increase number of ITC educated people by 15% and prepare the country to the transition from the industrial to information society (AIC website: www. aic. gov. kz/? mod=static&Ing=rus&id=22, accessed November 22, 2008). Many governments across the world have taken up measures to lessen the magnitude of the problem. Philippines and Hong Kong, for example, have facilitated this partly by providing free or subsidized access to computers and Internet) in designated public places (Holliday 2002). Telecommunications infrastructure is relatively problematic, although there are examples of significant public intervention. To this effect, several municipal governments in Germany have facilitated the development of high-speed network cables, fiber optics, and public access to improve digital economy (Hasse 2002). Infrastructural development E-government operation requires strong technological infrastructure such as computing and telecommunications. A great deal of financial resources is involved to develop structure.
In Kazakhstan, it is more burdensome due to its vastness and unique geographical structure. The government has so far (2005–2007) allocated E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 41 approximately US$380 million (World Bank 2006) for the purpose of e-government implementation. Let alone government fund is inadequate to meet required expenses, which warranted a partnership among public, private and donor agencies for the accumulation of investments. Kazakhstan’s poor infrastructural readiness for egovernment also reflected in the e-Government Readiness Survey 2008 where it scored 0. 306 on infrastructure index (UN 2008). Human resources There is no denial that in most of the developing countries e-government programs suffer due to the lack of quality human resources. Kazakhstan is no exception. A 2006 World Bank report points out that even AIC, the lead organization to implement e-government, is struggling with the shortage of professional staff, leaving only 12–15 for the ‘informatization’ task (World Bank 2006). To overcome the challenge, GoK provides continuous training and education to develop professionals in this field.
However, given the low public sector compensation packages, it is unclear whether the shortage of professionals will ever be overcome. Admittedly, Kazakh public administration suffers from migration of knowledgeable employees to its growing private sector due to attractive emoluments. This will essentially constrain country’s journey toward e-government development. Poverty Given the gradual decline of the population living below the poverty line, the reduction of poverty is still an important policy goal for Kazakhstan (Agarwal 2008).
However, a Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, with higher values denoting more unequal incomes) increased from 25. 74 in 1988 to 33. 85 in 2003 (ESCAP 2008). Income inequality is on the rise and took a defiant shape due to onslaught global economic meltdown, which also affects Kazakh economy. Consequently, rates of rural poverty continue to grow, and the economic necessity force migration from rural areas to the towns, which contributes to increase urban poverty too.
According to UNDP, nearly 16% of the total population lives on less than US$2 per day (Euromonitor International, www. euromonitor. com/pdf/indonesia. pdf, accessed November 22, 2008). In this context, it is argued that a large population is unable to buy PCs (price of a PC ranges between 40,000–60,000 Tenge) and be connected with Internet (initial connection fee and deposit amount to nearly 20,000 Tenge even with the state-owned Kazakh Telecom). Apart from the above, there are disparities in the distribution of basic services in Kazakhstan (Gleason 1997).
For example, a study shows that due to ageing Soviet transmission and distribution lines, electricity losses average 15%, reaching 30% to remote areas (cited in Cochran 2008, p. 1), which causes frequent power cut1 mainly in rural settlements and thus upset the prospect of their social and economic life. This poverty-ridden environment is often not receptive to adopt technological innovations, like e-government. 1 Kazakhstan produced 76. 3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in 2007 and consumed just over that amount, 76. 4 billion kWh (Cochran 2008, p. 1). 42 S. H. Bhuiyan Harnessing privacy
Rapid adoption of global networks and technological innovations has raised many outstanding concerns from civil society over the protection of their privacy and personal data and has brought into focus the possibility of the rise of ‘Big Brother ’ (cited in Bhuiyan 2006, p. 114). In a similar vein, referring to Korea, Jho (2005) illustrates that the Korean government has faced fierce public opposition and suffered major setbacks in pursuing some of its ICT projects. This symptom worries yet growing civil society of Kazakhstan and effective dialogue with the government can reduce tension over the issue.
E-government in the context of development New ICTs can make a significant contribution to the achievement of good governance goals (Heeks 2001). The e-governance permeates the four domains of government: its role in fostering economic growth and social cohesion, its relationship with the governed, its internal administration, and its relationship with the international environment (Brown 2005, p. 251). In each of these areas developing countries are faced with limitations on institutional capacity and infrastructure, financial resources and civil service skills that characterize—and prolong—lower levels of development (Brown 2005).
Against this backdrop, efforts have been made for implementing e-governance in many developing countries and some of them were successful. The outcomes of those practices have shown improved government functioning, better service delivery, and triumph over many socio-economic, political and administrative ills. Among them, three cases are presented below to help us to understand the usefulness of using e-government to achieve development goals. Lessons learned from the cases have immense value to reorganize Kazakh public administration in line with e-government mandate.
Case 1. Brazil: house of representatives e-participation The Brazilian House of Representatives website allows citizens to talk to their representatives and to participate in debates directly through the Internet. The Government of Brazil also provides an e-participation platform that permits Members of Parliament and citizens to communicate through chat rooms, discussion forums and the service “Falm com Deputado” or “Talk to the MP”. This form of eparticipation has enhanced the interaction between citizens and Members of parliament.
In a country as vast as Brazil and with a geographically dispersed population, online participation has provided citizens with a greater voice in the creation of policies and laws. (UN 2008, p. 31) Case 2. Health service in Malta The Malta Health Ministry is an excellent example of providing customer service online. The portal allows citizens to apply for the European Health Insurance Card online. It has an electronic patient library provided through a partnership with a E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 3 private firm, which provides citizens with a medical encyclopedia, information on surgeries and procedures, and has animated lessons. The portal also provides its citizens with a list of local pharmacies. (Source: http://www. ehealth. gov. mt/article. aspx? art=90 cited in UN 2008, p. 60) Case 3. E-seva program in Andra Pradesh, India The Government of Andra Pradesh has a clear vision to create a knowledge society by using IT in all aspects of development and governance (www. esevaonline. com, last accessed November 24, 2008).
Consequently, E-Seva (electronic service) program was launched to effectively deliver public and social services to the citizens. This program offers services of multiple central, state and local government agencies as well as some private sector organizations. The salient features of E-Seva include the following: & & & & & & & 46 e-Seva centers (with 400 service counters) spread over the Twin Cities and Ranga Reddy District. All service counters are facilitated with an electronic queuing system. Operating from 8:00 a. m. to 8:00 p. m. , on all working days and 9:00 a. m. to 3:00 p. m. n holidays (Second Saturdays and Sundays). ‘One-stop-shop’ for over 66 government-to-consumer (G2C) and business-toconsumer (B2C). No jurisdiction limits- any citizen in the twin cities can avail of the services at any of the 46 e-Seva service centers. Online services: eForms, eFiling, ePayments. Payments by cash/cheque/DD/credit card/Internet. The Government of India data shows that e-Seva centers offer the total of 132 G2C services from 16 government departments, and 15 B2C services from 10 business firms. Services include, among others, online transaction processing of payments, issuance of certificates, and licenses.
The number of transactions at e-Seva centers was initially under 5,000/month (August 2001). It quickly gained popularity and the number surpassed a million in July 2003. As of May 2004, the level of transaction is above 1. 1 million. (Source: http://www. esevaonline. com/ cited in World Bank 2006, p. 42) The first case makes it clear that interaction between MPs and citizens through Internet helps the former to better understand citizens’ opinions, grievances, and demands, while the latter participates in scrutinizing public policies and laws.
Kazakhstan government needs to implement the practice, contextualizing it to the local conditions, to boost up contact between parliament members and citizens, a pre-requisite for ensuring good governance. The second case is focused on electronic delivery of customer services related to healthcare in an EU country, Malta. The dismal performance of healthcare sector in Kazakhstan (Iqbal 2007) warrants a major overhaul. As a part of perceived reform, GoK may experiment with the transferability of Malta’s practice in public healthcare outlets.
The third example illustrates the significance of providing public services through public-private partnership (PPP) in Andra Pradesh, an Indian state. PPP is now a common strand of ‘third way’ government policy, with better efficiency promised 44 S. H. Bhuiyan from the private funding of public infrastructure through the transfer of risks to private concerns. In this perspective, GoK may consider to build PPPs as a potential strategy to deliver effective and efficient services to the citizens. Over and again, control of corruption and poverty reduction are two important development challenges that are being facilitated through e-government.
These issues are in some detail discussed here. Corruption Heeks (1998) points out that the level of corruption in the public sector sharply decreases in countries where e-government exists. A survey in India has revealed that, in the states where e-government has been established even partially, the corruption rate has substantially fallen. The survey has found that in Kolkata and Mumbai, two Indian cities, due to implementation of e-governance in some public sector, corruption rate has declined to 19% and 18% compared to 51% and 38% respectively in 2000 (Kabir 2008).
Similarly, in Bangladesh, one may observe that due to computerization of Railway Reservation System, the number of black-marketers has decreased considerably. Elimination of the middle-men in citizen-government interaction, in fact, is the major factor eradicating corruption (Kabir 2008). Poverty reduction Admittedly, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank has made a significant contribution to the development of ICT in Bangladesh. During the years, Grameen philosophy has proved that ICT can be very useful to uplift the rural and disadvantaged communities in Bangladesh and beyond (cited in Hossain 2005).
According to the founder of the Bank and Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus identified three key areas ICT can play an immediate role in helping the poor (Yunus 2004, cited in Hossain 2005) are: 1. Integrating the poor into the mainstream economy by expanding their market, eliminating the middle-men in their business, and creating international job opportunities through service out-sourcing; 2. Bringing information, educational programs, skill training, and healthcare services, etc, all in a very user friendly way, even to the most remote villages; 3.
Empowering the poor, particularly poor women, with a stronger voice that can be heard behind the borders of their villages, better access to information, and improvement in the democratic process. The study by Aminuzzaman et al. (2003) found a positive correlation between the uses of ICT and poverty reduction in Bangladesh. According to the findings, at the individual level, the Village Phone (VP) of Grameen Bank has contributed significantly to income generation of rural women (popularly known as phone ladies).
Socially, it has given a new status and image to those women who are getting Bank’s support to start this venture both at the family and community levels. Moreover, at the community level, it has narrowed gaps between cities and villages by enhancing frequent communication between family members. Economically, it has increased business transactions and dissemination of information (Aminuzzaman E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development 45 et al. 2003, p. 327). In an earlier but similar study by Bayes et al. 1999) also evaluated the role of VP (of Grameen Bank) within the context of rural development in general and of poverty reduction in particular. They came up with two basic conclusions: first, pursuance of pragmatic policies can turn telephones into production goods, especially through lowering transaction cost, and second, the services originating from telephones in villages are likely to deliver significant benefits to the poor in Bangladesh (Bayes et al. 1999). Kazakhstan suffers from rampant corruption and poverty.
As a means to control corruption and eradicate poverty, the government can evaluate the suitability of the noted (or similarly designed) initiatives for implementation in Kazakhstan. Conclusion The paradigm of e-government emphasizes coordinated network building, external collaboration, and one-stop customer services to facilitate efficient service delivery to citizens, and, thus, contrasts sharply with the traditional bureaucratic paradigm, which stresses standardization, departmentalization, and division of labor (Ho 2002).
In order to keep pace with the articulated development goals, particularly to achieve Kazakhstan 2030, the GoK has started to move toward e-government paradigm to establish a citizen-centered, accountable and transparent government. Kazakhstan’s past political history was linked to the long-standing legacies of monopolism, clanocracy, and cynicism of the Soviet period (Gleason 1997, p. 379). In the new Kazakhstan, situation has not improved to the extent many had expected. The country is still marked by widespread corruption, abject poverty, digital divide, lack of infrastructural development and human resources.
In this context, egovernment offers opportunities, though rudimentary at the present stage, to the government to improve service delivery across the country. The international development experiences clearly portray the benefit of egovernment. Such experiences may serve as policy guidelines to the implementation of e-government in Kazakhstan, after careful evaluations to their acceptability in Kazakh society. An important challenge to e-government implementation in developing countries is the lack of financial resources. The case of Kazakhstan is very much the same.
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The World Bank. (2002). Kazakhstan governance and service delivery: A diagnostic report. Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit, Europe and Central Asia Region. Yunus, M. (2004). Petersburg Prize 2004- acceptance speech delivered by Professor Muhammad Yunus in the Prize giving ceremony on June 27, 2004, at the Development Gateway Forum 2004, held at Petersburg Conference Center, Kongiswinter, Germany Shahjahan H. Bhuiyan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Administration at Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP), Almaty.
He earned a Ph. D. in Development Studies from the University of Bonn, Germany. His research interests are in governance, public policy and administration, public management, organization theory and behavior, culture, knowledge and development. Copyright of Public Organization Review is the property of Springer Science & Business Media B. V. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.