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How Responsive is Kazakhstan’s e-Government?

Written by on Saturday, 2 October 2010
Kazakhstan, Media and Internet
6 Comments

1b4x250y200-150x150Translation of Askhat’s post (RUS, KAZ)

This year’s Global Information Technology Report showed Kazakhstan performing relatively well in terms of technological propaganda: the country was ranked 68th out of 134. However, this does not necessarily mean that Kazakhstan’s government is using its online resource effectively.

The term “e-government,” according to Wikipedia, refers to “the use of technology to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees.” This means citizens are supposed to use these services, but it also means that a government’s electronic portal is supposed to respond to user demands. In Kazakhstan, however, it is more often the case that the government decides what services its people need and how they are going to access them.

The biggest flaw in the project is that its user interface is, to put it lightly, below par, which is actually a flaw of all government websites.

“Take, for example, the government website www.government.kz . The domain name is in English. There are letters in the middle of the word, which are not pronounced. Someone who doesn’t speak English will find it very difficult to remember the name, although they could, of course, locate it using a search engine,” says Yulia Natarova, deputy director of the Zubr Foundation, which evaluated the website.

Another problem is accessibility. How many people can access the e-government website and find the information they need? Are all those who need to use it able to? Officially, the number of internet users in Kazakhstan is growing, but the majority of them are residents of large cities (Almaty, Astana, Karaganda). Those who have to make long trips from their villages to larger cities in order to get documents are unlikely to get high-speed internet access in the near future.

When we say that we are watching the internet in our country grow before our very eyes, we don’t take these “small details” into account. I should add that, if we are planning to start using electronic documents, we have to make sure the process is streamlined on all levels of government (village, district and regional), otherwise documents used in rural areas might not be accepted in urban centers for technical reasons (for example, computers may not be equipped to handle some types of paperwork).

A few days ago, the website’s usability improved somewhat. Now, we just have to wait until user demands are taken into account.

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6 Comments »

  • Herman says:

    Just went through the yearly process of visa renewal and renewal of ALL car documents. From start of the visa-renewal application to the last road-test renewal document it took 28 (TWENTY EIGHT DAYS). Cost of all with travel abroad (no renewal “in-country” anymore), accomodation, notarized translation this and that, application fees this and that some USD 3,000.
    NOT IN ONE instance was there a sign of E-Government to be seen, enjoyed, used!
    EACH AND EVERY application had to be hand-written, signed, notarized, legalized, and presented to a clerk, officer, agent, worker for his/her evaluation, study, signature, and control.
    Of course, after waiting in a long line anywhere between 7 hours and 1,5 hours for each and every desk/door/office for each and every step of the process.
    This is a completely old-fashioned burocratic nightmare – every year(!), because any and all documents of foreigners can only have a maximum validity date of their visa – and the visa has a maximum of 12 months!
    E-Government in KZ is a total “contradiction-in-terminus”. What a WASTE of time, effort, and money!
    Best of luck to all of you! God be with this country when the oil runs out and there’s no more money to pay for inefficiencies.

    Reply

  • KZBlog says:

    The key issues for e-government are, as you say, accessibility. Does everyone have Internet? And a printer if something needs to be printed? And does everyone know that they are official documents?

    Also, having the information people need is important. Are the instructions clear? Did they just reprint some law (which is too complicated and long for normal people to understand) or are the steps needed to get a driver’s license, spelled out in simple terms. And are they up-to-date? One problem with websites in Kazakhstan is that they are often not updated regularly, particularly in English.

    Also, is everything you need on the website? Or if not, is it clear how to get it. Or does it say, “Fill out form X5J22″ without telling you where to get this form.

    In order to achieve this the government needs to get feedback from people. They need to test the system in reality. Have people try it out and then comment on how easy it was.

    One of the issues here is the vertical hierarchy of government in KZ. One government company I know had to print out everything that went on the website so the Director could sign it. Only then could it go live. And for the Director to sign it, it had to be approved by practically everyone in the company first. Meaning the system updates very slowly and materials that may have started out user-friendly become less so as more and more bureaucrats edit it and try to make the text sound official. And these bureaucrats will never use the website or e-gov because they will use their connections and friends.

    The heart of the issue is that e-gov is being developed in Kazakhstan primarily because Western countries have it. So no one actually understands what it is for. Therefore it will never meet the people’s needs.

    Reply

  • [...] Askhat says that Kazakhstan performs relatively well in terms of This IT development, but warns that this does not necessarily mean that Kazakhstan’s government is using its online resource effectively. [...]

  • Dinara says:

    This is funny that I stumbled upon this article since I also pondered about the effectiveness of KZ e-government this week. So, I decided to test its effectiveness for myself via:
    1. Filing online an information request to the KZ Stats Agency
    2. Filing an inquiry into how my long-time complaint against a local government employee have been resolved (given that I am out of the country and given the time difference, I have no time to call the local government up and ask them and my emails are totally ignored )))

    I was surprised at how relatively quick both requests have been processed: it took 4 days on average for my question with answer to it to be published. Now, 4 days is a long time, I agree, but given the fact that I did nothing but spent 5 minutes at the computer, and got all the information without the trouble…hmmm I would give a high estimate to our e-government. What the hell, it works )))))

    BTW the argument that the name of the website is in English is just absurd. To find it, you would have first to use (and that means to type in) the search engine (like google), which is in English letters anyways and then search for Правительство КЗ ))) (which is evidently in Russian))))

    So, to sum up, I am impressed. Maybe it E-gov is сurrently accessible only to 20% of the population (according to some statistics), but the fact that it actually works for these 20% is pretty good. And just for fun, look at the requests that people are filing at Ministers’ blogs: the requests come from people of all ages, and the numbers, I am sure, are constantly growing.

    So, don’t think you think that the E-gov, in its emerging stage, deserved a round of applause?

    Reply

    KZBlog Reply:

    @Dinara, They do allow Cyrillic websites now. And Google will search in Cyrillic. правительство.рф in Google will take you to the website http://www.government.ru. But that is a new phenomenon and most people are used to Latin websites. Wouldn’t hurt for the government to buy Правительство.КЗ and do a redirect, but that’s a new thing.

    Also, it depends on your accent whether all the letters in government are pronounced. I pronounce it goveRNMent. But some people do slur it a bit. But that would be like saying a website like zdravstvuite.kz should actually be Zracvite.kz because that’s how we say it usually.

    In general, yes e-gov works pretty well. Of course, why you need to check how a complaint is doing, instead of them automatically sending you an update when the matter is resolved is another questions.

    Reply

  • Eila says:

    @ Herman: “God be with this country when the oil runs out and there’s no more money to pay for inefficiencies” is still a big threat though.

    Reply

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