Azerbaijan learns Estonian e-government

Azerbaijanhas taken the X-Road – usingEstonia’s experience in e-government, they are building an e-government of their own. Is there anything to learn from their experience? The following case study highlights their lessons. 

Estoniais known as the model country for e-solutions in both public and private sector. The country’s e-government systems have enabled moving many government functions into online environments, cutting down on bureaucracy and granting citizens access to e-services such as e-tax or i-voting.

With Estonia’s example in mind, Azerbaijanset to follow the lead and establish an e-government of their own, using the know-how from Estoniato launch statewide information systems. Below you will find a case study of the Azerbaijani e-government as described by Jana Krimpe, the president of B.EST Solutions – the company that was founded to execute the ambitious plans.

What were the preconditions for establishing an e-government in Azerbaijan?

The first and foremost requirement was to get clear priority for the project from the government, which also required all the parties involved to be on the same page on what needed to be done. Also crucial for the project was to get the right team with the right qualifications involved on the Azerbaijani side.

The backbone of the e-government infrastructure was X-Road – a secure data exchange layer connecting state information systems. In Estonia, this was implemented by the government with a decree that required all nationwide databases to be connected to the X-Road. It was clear thatAzerbaijan would have to use the same method to enforce new data exchange systems.

The second critical requirement was a competent local partner. This is essential for all new implementations – the partner needs to be technically capable and speak the local language as well as be politically acceptable and have good government ties. If a single partner doesn’t fulfill these requirements, multiple partners are also an option.

Preconditions for successful implementation of e-government:

  •         Clear priorities set by decision makers
  •         Competent and respected local partners

What were the main challenges?

There were a lot of different challenges in implementing the Azerbaijani e-governmentexporting X-Road turned out to be much more complicated than anticipated. Being very proud of the existing system, the Estonian team was prepared to offer a secure and economical solution forAzerbaijan to manage their nationwide information systems. But no such system can be simply transferred from one setting to another.

The main challenges were not so much technical, although Azerbaijani legislation was also a lot stricter in their digital signatures, which demanded additional security measures. But the real issues lay in the institutions and politics – the project demanded a lot of inter-organizational cooperation and changing the business processes of government institutions. A lot of communication was required with institutions, top leaders, and IT departments.

The fact that X-Road was meant to be a decentralized system with it’s data remaining in individual databases and access controlled by current data “owners” was important in persuading the ministries. The solution itself was so surprisingly simple that  communicating it was a considerable effort. Once the idea was delivered, the rest was much easier.

Main challenges to consider:

  •       No system can simply be transferred to a new context without changes
  •       Local legislation must support quick adoption
  •      Buy-in from local owners of the information systems is crucial

What’s ahead for the Azerbaijani e-state?

Currently the focus has been on creating the preconditions for an e-state – automated queries between state databases are the key. The services that can be built on this infrastructure once it exists are already part of the project’s second phase. So first, we need to test the infrastructure sufficiently to move on to next phases.

There are 60 e-services that are presently available inAzerbaijanand the total number planned for the next year is 300. 16 state institutions are already using the e-government portal and 12 of them are offering e-services. However, since many citizens don’t yet possess electronic ID-cards that would enable them to use the e-services and are still not aware of the benefits, this is an area that will need to be worked on in order to gain widespread public adoption.

Getting citizens to adopt rather expensive and not yet mandatory ID-cards is a major obstacle that will need to be addressed in order for the e-state to take off. However, the government as well as the President of Azerbaijan have clearly stated their intent to do everything in their power to support the fast development of e-government and its services.

Future challenges:

  •       Testing and validating the infrastructure
  •       Making electronic ID-cards available for citizens
  •       Communicating the benefits of the e-services

 Source: Estonian ICT Export Cluster