On the occasion of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, established by the United Nations and celebrated on May 17, we urge the Government to intensify its activities on the modernization of public administration and improvement of the quality of service delivery to citizens.
Declaring this date under the resolution of the United Nations aims to raise awareness of the importance of Internet and modern technologies for citizens and economies. A series of events in countries around the world are organized on this day in order to promote the advantages that ICT can bring to societies, especially when it comes to the provision of public services to citizens and businesses.
Although there are some initiatives of the Ministry of Information Society and Telecommunications towards establishing a functioning electronic government in Montenegro, obstacles in this process remain numerous, from civil servants not accepting changes in the workflow and refusing to start using electronic system of service delivery, to failure to respect legal deadlines for setting up services on the eGovernment portal by the government authorities.
Although the eGovernment portal started operating 5 years ago, today it provides 165 services, out of which only one one-stop-shop service, that is a service which allows obtaining all information and conducting all procedures in one place. 53 services on the portal are of informative type, which means that they allow for obtaining information and downloading forms, which then need to be submitted at the counters while 112 services are of electronic type. Furthermore, one of the obstacles for using available electronic services for citizens is the price of the digital certificate, which ranges from 25 to 110 EUR.
The benefits for citizens of modernization of public administration are plentiful: saving time and money, the possibility of submitting requests at any time of the day, obtaining a higher quality of services, increasing transparency of public administration, as well as ensuring greater opportunities for involvement in the decision-making process. Additionally, institutional barriers offer both incentives and opportunities for bribery and corruption as individuals and businesses may be willing to make illegal payments to circumvent these barriers.
Benefits for the state are also numerous. For instance, Estonia managed to save an estimated 2% of GDP or $ 500 million a year only by using digital certificates, which every citizen older than 15 years is given with an ID. When it comes to 20 most developed EU countries, the digital economy contributes with 8% of GDP.
Furthermore, it is of paramount importance to improve citizens’ participation in policy-making. 2015 Balkan Barometer survey shows that only 6% of citizens of Montenegro participated in the consultation process in the preparation of laws and regulations. ICTs have the potential to make the process of involving citizens simpler and more accessible since they would be able to obtain all the necessary information about the legal and strategic framework in a specific area and the requested manner for submission of comments and suggestions on the draft legislation with a single click.
We, therefore, urge the Government and public authorities to pay special attention to this area and take concrete steps in ensuring greater accessibility of public services to citizens, and also to provide mechanisms for effective citizens’ participation in policy-making.
Public Policy Researcher