E- democracy & E-governance

1. Evaluation of reform policies of the Parliament and Government during the period of September 2019 – January 2020 and its compliance with the Toronto Principles (based on the analysis of the Government Program, the plans of the ministries and the adopted/rejected regulatory acts)

Implementation of the main tasks of the Government of Ukraine in the field of e-democracy and e-governance is entrusted to the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine (hereafter – MDT), which is responsible for the formation and implementation of the state policy in the field of digitization, development of e-democracy and e-governance; digital transformation; implementation of national electronic information resources and ensuring their interoperability; as well as reducing the digital divide, etc., in accordance with the Toronto Principles. The Decrees of the President of Ukraine from 22 July 2019 and 8 November 2019 refer to specific tasks on digital transformation: audit of the national electronic information resources; proper functioning and protection of national electronic information resources; activation of the Unified State Demographic Register; creation of a single register of street addresses and other named objects; transfer to electronic form of services related to the birth of a child, registration of the child's place of residence during 2019; introduction of most administrative services in electronic form; creation of an electronic seafarer's office; experimental mode of electronic consignment note, etc. These tasks are reflected in the activity plans of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (hereinafter - the CMU) and the MDT.

1. According to the Action Plan of the CMU, approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (hereinafter - the Parliament) on 4 October 2019, digital transformation is planned and being implemented, in particular, in the following areas:

  • Taxation and customs. Provision of all services related to taxation online through the taxpayer's electronic office. Development of a single automated information system, deployment of the national electronic transit system and integration of the information and telecommunication components of the customs; electronification of goods’ customs transit and their subsequent tracking.
  • Transportation. The Transport portal of e-services has been introduced. The process of freight digitalization is undergoing in Ukraine, including the introduction of electronic consignment notes, the opening of digital transport corridors, the introduction of e-driver's office, e-office of a seafarer, e-office of the carrier (still working in test mode).
  • Construction works. Introduction of an electronic office of the developer, the Register of construction activities and the Portal of the state electronic system in the field of construction, which are part of the Unified state electronic system in the field of construction.
  • Foreign affairs. Providing online access to all consular services, accession of Ukraine to the digital space of the European Union “Digital Visa-Free Area”.

2. In accordance with the Action Plan for the implementation of the Concept for the development of e-democracy in Ukraine for 2019-2020, approved by the order of the Cabinet of Ministers from 12 June 2019 № 405-r, the following measures have been implemented:

  • The CMU resolution of the “On Amendments to Certain Resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the Functioning of Official Websites of Executive Bodies” from June 12, 2019 № 493 was adopted.
  • The involvement of citizens in the project competition of the State Fund for Regional Development (hereinafter - SFRD) called the All-Ukrainian Public Budget (hereinafter - AUPB) at the regional level (pilot versions in Poltava, Lviv, Chernihiv regions). The Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine has introduced a new information system for the SFRD.

3. The Action Plan of the MDT for 2020 was approved on December 9, 2019. It contains a number of measures for digital transformation, which are aimed at:

  • development of public services, namely: formation of the register of public services, their optimization, provision of electronic services via smartphone (application "Action"), optimization of state registers, etc.;
  • infrastructure development, such as increasing 4G coverage, providing high-speed Internet on all international highways and in all settlements, developing secure and reliable e-identification schemes, etc.;
  • bridging the digital divide: conducting digital literacy research, launching educational courses, conducting digital literacy training events, expanding the network of ambassadors;
  • support for the IT industry, in particular e-residency, regulation of virtual assets;
  • implementation of intersectoral initiatives, such as e-Malyatko (eBaby);
  • introduction of analytical modules of the Unified State Web Portal of Open Data.

4. On 12 June 2020, the CMU approved the CMU Program of Activities (which, however, was not approved by the Parliament). The document envisages the development of e-democracy tools, including the creation of an online platform for the interaction of executive bodies with civil society institutions (already mentioned in the Action Plan for the implementation of the Concept of e-democracy in Ukraine for 2019-2020, mentioned above), mechanism of electronic voting during the formation of public councils of the central and local executive bodies. It should be noted that e-voting in public councils at the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine is already taking place. However, this practice should be extended to other executive and local self-government bodies. Other areas of this Digital Agenda are aimed at strengthening the predetermined course.

Most of the transformation processes in the above areas have already started and the first steps towards their successful implementation have been made. In particular, the web portal and mobile application "Action" (online public services) was launched, training to improve the digital literacy of the population and government officials and local governments was initiated, a draft National Strategy for the Protection of Children in the Digital Environment for 2021-2026 was developed.

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2. Current challenges / issues in the relevant policy area

The activities of the Government of Ukraine during the period under review were mainly focused on the development of digital infrastructure and e-governance as a whole. Less attention was devoted to e-democracy issues, namely development of e-participation and participatory decision-making, as well as support for these processes at regional and local levels.

The processes of building digital architecture, reducing the digital divide are fundamental processes that will in the future contribute to the further expansion of online services throughout Ukraine, as well as provide citizens with the opportunity to use the offered services. The development of a broadband Internet access network is a global priority. Lack of access to high-speed Internet can offset all other developments related to e-services, open data, innovative IT solutions, as citizens simply will not be able to use them.

Among the main existing challenges are the following:

  • Quality and security. Ukrainian society requires prompt steps and decisions from the authorities. The speed of the decision-making and their implementation significantly affects their quality. This applies to both the non-functionality of solutions and the possible leakage of personal data and other sensitive user information. For this reason, the safety of online products must be rigorously considered, especially given the ever-expanding number of online services and users. The legal assignment of registers after one or more central executive bodies (hereafter – CEBs) increases the risk of misuse of personal data.
  • Publicity. The activities of the MDT should involve the participation of members of the public, experts, and scientists through the formation of expert working groups and conducting topical discussions and joint decision-making, which will help to unite the public around the common ideas and decisions. Lack of public discussion can lead to misunderstandings from both the public and local self-government bodies (hereafter – LSGB), as well as from business representatives.
  • (non)Participation and trust. Ensuring public participation in decision-making and partial distribution of the local or state budgets is an important condition for the development of trust and reducing the tension in society. Priority steps for the development of e-democracy have been identified in the CMU Plan Activities from 4 October 2019 only in the context of AUPB. It should be noted that the AUPB was piloted only in the Poltava, Lviv, and Chernihiv regions. At the moment, it is difficult to draw conclusions on the success of this initiative. Moreover, the introduced process does not envisage full participation of the residents and final selection of the winning projects, and therefore needs improvement. E-petitions are often ineffective because local self-government bodies do not consider them or do not answer on the substance of the issue. In addition, there are cases of a significant increase in the number of signatures that an e-petition must collect for mandatory consideration by local self-government bodies (for example, in Dnipro 1,000 - 3,000 signatures), which does not promote community participation and dialogue. However, this tool is an important marker of building trust and realization of the right to local self-government by community.

Introducing public consultations is also one of the challenges currently faced by the government and legislators. The draft Law on Public Consultations requires further elaboration. The biggest challenge, besides developing proper legislative support, is to transform the public consultation process from a formal one to a real one, to increase its popularity, and to take into account the results of consultations while adopting the decisions, even in the early stages. Not only a list of participation tools should be formed, but also a real system of “tool-engagement-response of the LSGB/central government bodies-engagement”. The experience of the European Commission in terms of the public consultation process can be taken as a basis, namely the priority involvement of specific actors (representatives of relevant NGOs, experts, scientists, business) in the discussions. It is also important to launch and ensure the proper functioning of the Civil Society and Government website, planned for the IV quarter of 2019 in accordance with the Action Plan for the implementation of the Concept of e-democracy in Ukraine for 2019-2020. Supporting the development of e-democracy instruments, improving their procedures at the state and local levels is an important step in ensuring their continued and effective functioning. In our view, this policy area has received insufficient attention.

  • State data. High-quality and accessible statistics, open data from state registers will facilitate the transition to decision-making based on data analysis using modern IT technologies. Non-interoperable and non-synchronized central government and LSGB data cause duplication of data, reduce their quality, and as a result, paid databases appear at all levels. There are no open data standards for many CEB sets. There is no direct communication with data users (for example, informing about changes in meta-information, data set structure, etc.). Insignificant responsibility for non-disclosure of public information in the form of open data.
  • Institutional development. The activities of the MDT, like other CEBs, should focus on policy-making. Thus, in our opinion, the team of IT specialists should be separated from the ministry. This will contribute to the development of the IT industry in Ukraine. The positions of chief digital transformation officer (hereinafter - CDTO) at the level of ministries and at the regional level should be introduced. The former will ensure the coordination of digital transformation processes at the CEB level, and the latter will provide feedback and dissemination of digitization policies at the local level. It is necessary to involve the main stakeholders in policy making, formulate the transparent and public decision-making process, strategic vision of digital Ukraine development and development of the IT industry. CDTOs started working only in the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine, the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Ministry of Communities and Territories, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, Kherson Regional State Administration and Kharkiv city ​​council.
  • Education. Training to reduce the digital divide is needed not only by ordinary citizens, but also by local government representatives, in particular, the use of modern management technologies, analytical solutions, etc. The first online courses on improving the digital literacy of citizens and civil servants have been launched on the Action portal. However, there are no training and retraining programs for digital transformation in higher education institutions.
  • Regional and sectoral digital transformation. Sectoral and regional informatization programs are an important component of digital development. Their development and implementation should be provided by CDTOs at the level of ministries and at the regional level. Such programs should be widely discussed and take into account the needs of digital development of industries and regions, in line with their development strategies.

Informatization projects and agreements aiming to purchase the means of informatization worth more than UAH 500 000, in particular, by local self-government bodies, are being approved by the Ministry of Finance. The coordination of local self-government procurement looks akin to the attack on the independence of local self-government and the centralization of processes "from above", which does not contribute to decentralization processes and the development of local self-government.

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3. Recommendations for priority actions in 2020-2021, in particular, for the agenda of Parliament's second session

  1. Development and adoption of the National Strategy the Digital State 2025 and related regulatory acts, which should be consistent with the priorities of the European Commission Digital Strategy. The foundational document will identify approaches, tools and visions for the development of the digital state, improvement of relevant procedures and processes as a whole[1].
  2. Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime in full. Introduce changes to cybersecurity legislation in line with the recommendations of the NIS Directive and new European Union regulations[2]. Introduce a system of high-quality and rapid response to cyber threats and other vulnerabilities of online systems, meet the requirements for accession to the digital space of the European Union.
  3. Improve the quality and implementation of automated security control of the new IT solutions (web platforms, websites, specialized software, mobile applications).
  4. Ensure publicity in the activities of the MDT (in particular, monitoring the reform process, priorities and next steps), form and ensure the effective operation of the public council (according to the standards of Resolution № 996). Develop on its basis expert groups around all areas of the Ministry's activities and related projects.
  5. Adopt laws on the development of e-participation, in particular: "On the all-Ukrainian referendum", "On the local referendum", "On the public budget"; "On public consultations", "On interest philanthropy", "On the people's law-making initiative", "On electronic petitions"; "On recall of people's deputies", "On smart cities and territories", "On the All-Ukrainian public budget", new editions of the Laws of Ukraine "On local self-government", "On citizens' appeals", "On electronic voting".
  6. To conduct the audit on the implementation of government concepts and action plans for the development of e-democracy and update them. Benchmark of success - growth of Ukraine's indicators according to the UN eGov-rating (2020 - 49th place in e-participation; growth by 29 positions in the previous year), data from the Statistics Service and independent estimates, such as the Local e-Democracy Index.
  7. Conduct an audit of the implementation of government concepts and action plans for the development of e-government and update them. Improve the implementation of the principle of "digital by default". Benchmark of success - growth of Ukraine's indicators according to the UN eGov-rating (2020 - 69 positions in e-government; growth by 13 positions), data from the Statistics Service and independent assessments, such as the Urban Transparency Rating, etc.
  8. Legislate the principle of "default data openness" and establish the obligation of administrators to disclose all public information in the form of open data. Strengthen accountability for violations of open data legislation[3]. Update and control the implementation of Resolution № 835, promote best practices. Develop and publicly discuss data standards to be published. Establish quality control of published data. The benchmark of policy success is the achievement of the goal of the MDT - Ukraine in the top three according to open data, in particular according to the Global Open Data Index.
  9. Develop and amend the Law of Ukraine "On Personal Data Protection" in order to introduce an effective system of personal data protection, transparent policy of publishing open data, development of open data taking into account the rules of the digital space of the European Union and GDPR standards[4].
  10. Introduce the principle of "Cloud first" through the adoption and implementation of the Law of Ukraine "On Cloud Services".
  11. Develop and approve a new version of the National Informatization Program, which defines the main approaches to common standards for creating and implementing digital tools to ensure interoperability and consistency of digital development at the state and local levels, open architecture of IT solutions, stages of digital infrastructure development, “points contact” between national and local projects (for example, the register of the territorial community, etc.).
  12. Ensure the quality and interoperability of state registers by adopting and implementing the Law of Ukraine "On Public Electronic Registers".
  13. Develop the Action project, continue the digitization of services: 150 services should be available online by the end of 2020, 100% of all services should be available online by the end of 2024 (according to the action plan of the MDT).
  14. Continue to implement CDTO positions at the ministry level, as well as at the regional/local levels; to expand the local (in particular, at the level of all communities, districts) network of digital MDT ambassadors. Ensure transparency of the system of their plans/results of activities.
  15. Create a National Register of electronic solutions (licensed software), which is purchased at the expense of the budget, their developers, and experts involved. Introduce the principle To introduce the principle "The state pays for the software once": the software purchased with budget funds is open for use by all authorities. Take into account the best practices of the European Union and the United States.
  16. Disseminate training resources, advice and digital tools to develop the capacity of governments at all levels, including public service delivery and management efficiency through the transition to DDDM (Data-driven decision-making). Create specialized training and retraining programs for digital transformation (CDTO), increase digital literacy of the population, public associations, businesses.
  17. Encourage and expertly support the adoption of regional and sectoral informatization programs (city / community, region, CEB) with mandatory public consultations with citizens. Implement smart solutions that affect the interests of citizens and the community, which are subject to public consultations.
  18. Use the potential of artificial intelligence to improve the process of providing public services. Benchmark of success - growth of indicators of Ukraine according to the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index (2019 - 63 position).
  19. Digitalize regions, cities / communities - stimulate their transition to data-driven governance by providing access to state data, their synchronization. Stimulate digitalization at the local level through the introduction of co-financing from the state budget in a certain proportion to the amount of funding for local informatization programs. Standardize business processes and data structure that are a consequence of the implementation of the business process in order to create products for local self-government, with the possibility of further scaling.
  20. Transfer state-owned data to communities and regions, which will ensure that the latter make decisions based on them and verify state-owned data.
  21. To develop and implement a new system of data formation of registers, statistics through the implementation of the principle "data in registers from the original source".
  22. Support CivicTech and GovTech initiatives related to the creation of data-based services, create their register, co-finance the cost of data centers for cloud solutions that are in demand.

[1] Ukraine’s integration into the European Union’s Digital Single Market: Challenges, Opportunities and Barriers, 2019.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Green Paper. Open data policy. Office of Effective Regulation (BRDO).
[4] Ukraine's integration into the European Union's Digital Single Market: Challenges, Opportunities and Barriers, 2019

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