IVO: We are lagging behind in e-Government and are missing out on opportunities

The Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) has recently published a study titled e-Government as seen by the stakeholders and experts. The study includes two sets of analyses – the results of the research that was carried out throughout the summer of 2008, mapping the attitudes and views of select key stakeholders in the process of implementation of e-Government in Slovakia and an analysis of the legislative aspects of the implementation of e-Government in Slovakia. The authors of the study are Milan Galanda – an independent expert on the legislation,  Jaroslav Pilát – analyst of MESA 10, an independent think-tank and Sylvia Šumšalová –  IVO analyst.

The study was envolved as a part of a broader project entitled Launching e-Governance in Slovakia: Empowering Citizens to Participate, Influence and Exercise Democratic Control, which was generously supported by Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe.

As was shown by the results of the research, the stakeholders from amongst the general public, as well as the public  officials are becoming alarmed in that they sense that we are trailing behind when it comes to e-Government and are insufficiently using the opportunities, which are in turn slipping away. The critical mass of individuals concerned when it comes to this issue includes the ranks of public administration officials, representatives of the IT business sector, as well as other experts involved in this field. The majority of the respondents agree that Slovakia’s lagging when it comes to the implementation of e-Government (electronic services in the public administration) is caused by deficiencies in the management of the whole process of implementation and by the fact that this issue does not represent a priority for this administration. At the same time, this view corresponds with the reservations raised with regard to the framework document  approved by the government – The National Concept on the Informatization of Public Administration. According to the prevailing opinion of the respondents, the above-mentioned document does not clearly delineate the responsibilities and competencies, organizational provisions or specify the model of management of the whole system, as well as the aims and means of reaching any goals in this regard.

Insufficient human potential is in the respondent’s view yet another barrier in the process of the successful implementation. In another words, Slovakia does not have a sufficient number of experts, or a qualified team of experts. Moreover, what is also seen as a major stumbling block is the discontinuity in the process of e-Government’s implementation, namely that a long-term strategy has not been laid out, there is lack of consistency in the process’s development (inasmuch as there is a discontinuity when it comes to the official government strategies), there is prevalent fluctuation of state employees, which results in the introduction of many often mutually incompatible concepts.

Despite these drawbacks, a view prevails among the respondents, whereby the implementation of e-Government could be speeded up if changes in the management of the process were made. Moreover, the respondents called for a thorough analysis of the present state of affairs and setting out of a succession of steps needed in the process of successful implementation, along with the adoption of necessary legislative changes. In the same vein, it should be mentioned that the present state of division of competencies between the Ministry of Finance, the Office of the Government and the Plenipotentiary of the Government for Informatization has been shown to be anything but ideal – something that was noted also by the stakeholders and the participants of the survey.

So, what are the priorities? The respondents frequently mentioned the need to finalize the concept of on-line communication between the citizens and public administration and bring it to life. In order to do so, it is necessary to establish a „back-office“ of public administration – either in the form of a registry of the population, source registry for the general public and businesses, or other basic registries, which would be mutually inter-laced and secured. On the other hand, the respondents expressed a desire for a clearly-defined approach of the state and the government when it comes to meeting the demands of the population, i.e. establishing such electronic services which could be useful for the general public.

In connection with the implementation of e-Government, an oft-stated reservation expressed in the survey was the insufficient and slow changes in legislation. "Any changes that do take place are of partial nature, however a broad and far-reaching systemic changes are what is required,“ as was noted by the authors of the section dealing with legislation Galanda and Pilat. For the seamless implementation of electronic services into the public administration, the authors recommend that a new Administrative Code is adopted enabling an individual not only to submit a request electronically, but also to perform a follow-up -  in electronic form. Where the electronic process has been already implemented, the reverse mode was selected, i.e. the processes came before the legislation, with the departments establishing their own electronic processes with their own guidelines in order to reach the goal of implementation.

From a society-wide point of view, the support of the public is crucial for the successful implementation of electronic services in public administration. Sylvia Šumšalová, an IVO analyst notes in this regard: "The informatization is a thus far a concept that is "pushed through“ mainly from the top-down. A stronger "voice from below" is largely absent. The pressure of the public – either expert or general – is not sufficient for this issue to gain a society-wide appeal and a status of a problem that needs to be addressed urgently."

About the research

The findings presented in the study are based on he data gathered through a survey research that was carried out by the Institute for Public Affairs throughout the period May-June 2008. The questionnaire used was sent to the respondents via electronic mail.  It contained 6 so-called open-ended questions. There were no pre-determined answer choices for these, thus the replies of the respondents took the form of random responses. The questions were on the present state of implementation of e-Government in Slovakia.

  • Perception of difficulties and barriers  when it comes to implementing  e-Government in Slovakia,
  • Solutions for overcoming existing barriers in the process of implementation,
  • Opinions concerning the present division of competencies between the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Office of the Government and the Plenipotentiary of the Government for Informatization of the Society,
  • Opinions on the „National Concept for the Informatization of Public Administration“.

The target group of the research included key stakeholders in the process of implementation of e-Government in Slovakia. As part of the survey, a total of 60 respondents were targeted for the survey. Of these:

  • Nearly half included  representatives of state administration (high-level public servants and employees of Ministerial departments responsible for the development of IT),
  • More than a quarter of respondents included representatives of IT business sector (top managers of IT companies participating in the implementation of various  e-Government projects),
  • The other group exceeding a quarter of the total number of respondents was comprised of independent experts on the issue at hand.

After sending two notifications to the recipients of the survey – one via electronic mail, the other via phone– a total of 23 filled- out questionnaires were submitted. Of the responses received, the final break-down of respondents was as follows:  10 representatives of public administration, 6 representatives of IT sector and 7 experts.

Despite the fact that it is not possible to make any generalizations and claim that they represent the views of all the stakeholders dealing with e-Government, in light of the selection of respondents, it is clear that these are individuals,  who within their respective positions have a significant influence when it comes to decision-making processes, implementation of projects, or yield influence on this subject. In this sense, we can speak of key stakeholders  in the process of implementation of e-Government in Slovakia. The list of respondents, along with their respective functions is listed in the research report on page 19.

In order to offer more complete picture to the readers of the study and in order to preserve the authenticity of the responses, we have also included  in tables the actual responses (with minimal language correction), however, without the assignation of names of individual respondents to the individual responses, which is a standard approach with this kind of research.

Download: e-Government očami aktérov a expertov [PDF document available in Slovak language, 1.6 MB]

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