NEWS AND EVENTS
August 25, 2015
TECHNOLOGIES... The Power of Intelligence
Technologies have radically changed virtually every aspect of our life. Today, we do many things differently: we buy goods and pay for them, communicate and learn, work and play. They have transformed many areas beyond recognition in just a few years. Skeptics have grown wary of the unbridled desire to use IT to make life easier. Only time will tell whether all these efforts are worthwhile, but one thing is obvious: a country risks remaining on the sidelines of global development and ending up merely enjoying the role of a raw materials appendage for the rest of the world if it does not pursue a policy of IT development in the near future.
Uzbekistan has been actively involved in the competitive game on large-scale introduction of advanced technologies in the life of society. Being a major customer of the IT industry, the state stands as a major initiator of the process. This makes a lot of sense given the ever-intensifying digitalization of relationships between the public authorities, people, and businesses. Some ten years ago, Uzbekistan set itself a very ambitious goal of creating a reliable and major infrastructure of ‘electronic government’ in Uzbekistan within a short span of time, which would bring the cooperation of all stakeholders to a drastically new level.
It may be stated with certainty that Uzbekistan has passed a long way: over 20 big e-government-related projects were implemented in a very short time. Much still needs to be done. It is important that the whole lot of work is being integrated as part of the National Program for the Development of Information and Communication System of Uzbekistan by 2020, which was purposefully developed by domestic experts with the involvement of the leading international experts. Conventionally, the document is divided into two main thrusts - the first one is responsible for the development of telecommunication technologies, networks and communication infrastructure, and the second one aims at the creation of integrated information systems and databases of the ‘electronic government’.
Uzbekistan has been taking significant efforts to further develop the e-government in line with global trends. This process involves the leading players of the global market, who are ready to share the know-how and the experience of its implementation. Being a permanent United Nations leader in the development of e-government for the past years, South Korea has been the key partner of Uzbekistan in this direction. The two sides are currently working on a joint project which is extremely important for the development of the plan of informatization of regions. The Pskent district of Tashkent region was chosen as a pilot model at the first stage. The project results will give the way to the detailed analysis of the regional agencies and facilitate the elaboration of a plan of informatization of administrative activities, given the Korean experience and conditions of Uzbekistan.
Another joint initiative of building a specialized e-government data processing center in Tashkent has been in progress. The respective agreement was signed during the visit of the President of Uzbekistan to South Korea. The need for its establishment arose from the fact that in the near future all the current capacities for the smooth operation of the e-government system will be insufficient. The elaboration of the project documentation is nearing its completion. The project will be financed by a loan of the South Korean Eximbank and the state budget.
Building of the e-government is not an end in itself, but a specific way to make the domestic business more effective. Processes within the companies, and their interaction with the state bodies have been shifting online, allowing their prompt operation, effective work of the staff involved in the routine paperwork, giving the opportunity to promptly and flexibly retarget processes if needed, which is very relevant in the conditions of instability in the global markets. This work has been gaining momentum with the years.
One of the world\'s leaders in software production SAP and the Electronic Government Development Center have recently signed a memorandum in support of business and creation of the national cloud infrastructure and IT platform for small businesses in Uzbekistan. It will enable the domestic ‘small economy’ to get affordable and easy-to-use integrated solution for managing key processes of the dynamically growing business: finance, marketing, customer relationships, operations. The system will help to optimize all aspects of work of small and medium-sized companies, get immediate access to business information and promote the development through the detailed analysis, accurate planning, centralization and transparency of business processes.
By the end of 2016, Uzbekistan is planning to launch a unified customs information system designed to simplify the procedure of regulation of export-import and transit operations. It will help to optimize the administrative procedures and eliminate the barriers to export and import of goods through the mechanism of effective exchange of information between the participants of foreign economic activity and involved agencies and organizations.
It is expected that the law on e-government as a key element of the new system will be submitted to the lower house of parliament this year. According to experts, the law would help to make the introduction of interactive government services more effective, cut their time and financial costs, and ensure openness and transparency of state administration. The process of drafting included an inventory of the national legislation on ICT, and an integrated analysis of similar documents of the field’s leaders - Austria, the USA, Germany, South Korea and Japan.
Besides, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies of Uzbekistan has scheduled to complete the development of a unified register of public services, and application forms by this October. That would make the operation of government agencies transparent and effective, facilitate the analysis of the services provided, as well as the development of proposals to streamline and optimize the procedure of their provision.
193 single window centers providing public services for businesses will be launched across the country in 2016. They will operate under a clear mechanism of cooperation with state bodies and other organizations that provide public services through the system of interagency electronic interaction, which is currently under development. Public authorities will not be allowed to directly receive applications from business entities, as well as involve or contact the applicants in the course of consideration of their appeals for public services, which are included in a list of centers. The centers will enable the public to use public services in their district without the need to travel to the regional center or Tashkent, to directly contact various ministries, departments, government agencies.
The other day, the government approved another important document - the provision of the Open Data Portal. It is designed to post information of state authorities. The portal was launched in test mode this March, but has not yet demonstrated a clearly built system of presenting information by government agencies. The new document will fill this gap. For example, all state authorities will have executives responsible for the publication of public data sets on the portal. All information provided must be relevant, credible and consistent.
All these measures are aimed at the future development of the system, which has already demonstrated its viability and effectiveness. The informational interaction of state bodies with legal entities and individuals has been carried out through the Single Portal of Interactive Government Services. It provides access to information about the services and functions, enables users to exchange data in electronic form, process inquiries through a single point of access to integrated online public services. In a bit more than two years of its operation the portal received 294,000 inquiries, of which 42% were submitted by individuals and 58% - by legal entities. Today, the single portal provides access to more than 240 interactive services. It is connected to more than 600 government agencies and their structural units.
It would be appropriate to note that Uzbekistan has been pursuing the policy of import substitution even in such a high-tech industry. A joint Uzbek-South Korean company LG CNS Co. Ltd has been established in Uzbekistan this year as part of the policy. It specializes on the production of information systems and software tools for the e-government system and the real economy. It is scheduled that the joint venture will implement a dozen of projects with the involvement of the leading experts from Korea and Uzbekistan by the end of this year.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
The IT introduction rating of local government agencies and companies was published in June 2015. It covered 115 organizations, including 56 state agencies, 45 economic authorities, and 14 local authorities. They were evaluated by experts on the basis of monitoring the official websites of organizations, data of the Single Portal of Interactive Government Services, as well as the information provided by the organizations for the inter-agency system of NIS.UZ.
The results showed that in the second quarter of the current year, the average rating of 115 government agencies has risen from 59.23 to 68.29 points (15.3%) against the previous period. The highest point was scored by the State Tax Committee, which thereby topped the rating for the first time and stole the leadership from the Central Bank, which was leading for many years. The top five also included Dori-Darmon, Uzvinprom-holding and O’zavtosanoat.
The domestic tax authorities have much to be proud of. Just a decade ago, huge queues of accountants and other staff in district tax inspection during the reporting period was a common case. It took much time for both the visitors and the tax authorities. Therefore, a decision on shifting businesses to electronic reporting was of ultimate importance. As a result, 99% of taxpayers submitted their reports in the electronic form in 2014. Today, the official website of the State Tax Committee offers 59 types of interactive and electronic services that are popular among the population. In the first half of this year, they have been used by more than 36,000 users, and the total number of applications has exceeded 966,000.
The domestic banking sector has been showing an enviable enthusiasm in the IT introduction in response to business needs in simple and effective IT-mechanisms that are responsible for conducting financial transactions. Being an integral part of the global banking system, this trend now ranks among the priorities of the new stage of development of the national banking system. Today, it empowers a single interbank payment system of the Central Bank\'s internal payment systems of commercial banks, interbank retail payment system of Uzcard, including plastic cards of all commercial banks, agent billing network Uz-Paynet, which receives payments for communications, utilities and other services as well as the retail payment system SMS-TO\'LOV.
Empowered by attainments of information technologies based on powerful, reliable and high-performance platforms, commercial banks have been creating new software, thereby strengthening the infrastructure of IT technologies. Such processes bolster the competitive environment between credit institutions, improving the quality of traditional banking services, and promoting the introduction of new electronic services. In order to attract new customers, banks have been constantly expanding and updating the range of their services, turning into a kind of universal mechanism on provision of financial services. A special focus is laid on the further development of cashless payments, as proved by the rapid growth of the number of plastic cards in circulation. Over 14.5 million plastic cards are currently actively used throughout the country, and the number of installed terminals has exceeded 166,100.
The National Bank ranks among the breakthroughs in the IT introduction. It is going currently getting ready to present several interesting projects. For example, one of the projects will enable the foreigners to purchase products and services by domestic companies through the Internet. To do this, an Uzbek businessman needs to sign an agreement with the bank, get a special link to be posted on the website or online store. Once a card holder clicks the link, the request for an operation will be redirected to a secure page where the purchase can be processed.
Uzbekistan is also getting prepared for new project on the use of cloud-based and contactless technologies in transactions. It allows customers to pay for goods and services directly through electronic purses and smart phones. It is enough to bring the smartphone close to the reader, and the payment for travel on the bus or metro, shopping in the store will be processed.
BY TRANSPORT AND MORE
It is important that Uzbekistan seeks to develop and implement IT-technologies in various spheres of human activity. There are many examples abound: several interesting technological projects are underway in the transport sector, which ranks among the leaders in the use of modern technologies.
The National Uzbekistan Airways has been implementing an ambitious program on the introduction of e-commerce, which envisages the launch of on-line booking and ticket sales system by the end of 2015. Any visitor will be able to choose the direction he needs and get the ticket through the company’s website. The international payment systems Visa and MasterCard will be applied at the first stage, domestic plastic cards – at the second stage.
In the next two years the Toshshahartranshizmat Company is planning to introduce an automated fare collection system in Tashkent public transport. It promises to raise the collection of revenues while fighting against stowaways.
The project envisages the installation of special devices on the doors of buses, trams, as well as at the metro entrance to collect fares. Tram and bus conductors will be supplied with their mobile counterparts. Once paying the fare, a passenger will receive a one-way ticket. The payment will be processed by means of integrated transport contactless smart cards. The capital\'s metro is currently piloting a system of electronic fare using smart cards. The first turnstiles equipped with special validators were installed at the Mustaqillik Maydoni (Independence Square) metro station.
Aiming at prevention of traffic violations, Tashkent authorities are currently piloting a computerized control system of road safety and protection of public peace. It will record every violation of traffic rules specifying the place, time and identification number of the vehicle.
The expansion of GPS-tracking has been in progress after its successful testing in the course of monitoring of the capital\'s bus fleet. Based on this experience, Uzbekistan is planning to establish a system of tracking transiting goods transported in motor vehicles in the near future. All the information about cargo will be forwarded to a special control center in the State Customs Committee.
This is just a small part of numerous projects that are capable to rank Uzbekistan among the region’s leaders in the introduction of IT-technologies. The key is to position manpower as the core of any technology.
(As part of the social order of the Public Fund for Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions under the Oliy Majlis).
(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)